We’re standing by the murky waters of a place we call the frog pond when I tell him. I tell him not to step into the water. It’s sulfurous black swamp mud, and he’s wearing white socks under his sandals, upon his own insistence. It has something to do with the cut on his foot that mysteriously appeared in the basement last week.
Maybe it’s because he’s ten feet away and he figures I can’t get over there in time to stop him. Or maybe he simply can’t resist the temptation. He has a rebellious streak that’s so unlike his sister’s conservative temperament. I pray every day that I might rein it in.
He doesn’t disobey with a toe in the water and a glance in my direction; he’s an all-in sort of guy, so he literally plunges into the mysterious murky water in a sort of leap. He sinks to his knees before he realizes what happened, and I find myself hurrying to the rescue. I pull his little body from the muck, and we lose a sandal in the process.
The sobs start as soon as he sees his blackened socks, and I cringe at the thought of the microorganisms burrowing into the laceration on his foot. But there are greater issues to which I must attend: I plunge my arm into the stirred up, stinky water and begin grasping through the mud in search of the missing sandal.
There’s stinking mud under my nails when I pull the tiny shoe from the water, and we walk to the creek to make an effort to clean ourselves. This is a scene that’s played out in my life more than once over the past six years, when I decided to cultivate a passion for catching frogs in the lives of our children.
While Caleb splashes in the much-cleaner water of Wolf Creek, I’m reminded of a passage I read in Scripture not long ago: “‘If we have found favor in your [Moses’] eyes,’ they said, ‘let this land be given to your servants as our possession. Do not make us cross the Jordan.’ Moses said to the Gadites and Reubenites, ‘Should your fellow Israelites go to war while you sit here? Why do you discourage the Israelites from crossing over into the land the Lord has given them?’” (Numbers 32:5-7 NIV)
After forty years of wandering through the wilderness, God’s people have finally reached the waters of the Jordan River – the gateway to the Promised Land. Their inheritance waits on the western side of the river. They must simply find a way to cross the river and receive the promise.
Not everyone in the crowd is excited about the journey across. A few of the leaders look at the land where they stand, on the eastern side of the river, and they decide this land will be good enough for them. They’re comfortable. This spot looks quite welcoming. They approach Moses, their faithful leader, and convince him to let them stay on the eastern side of the river.
Moses relents. He simply asks that they contribute to the conquests on the western side of the river, and they may then return and settle to the east.
But the happy ending never comes. Jump forward a few books, and we find that those who settled to the east of the Jordan River were attacked and enslaved, and the right eye of every Israelite was gouged out (Samuel 10:27, 2 Kings 10:32). Failing to obey God’s command cost them dearly.
I’m thankful my children are learning to obey. The half-hearted Israelite clans set a good example for us all. Partial obedience is disobedience, and disobedience has a cost. We’re called to honor God for our own protection and benefit, not to stifle our fun.
I share these truths with Caleb while we clean his shoes in the semi-clear waters of Wolf Creek.
“No more mud,” he says.
“Right, no more mud,” I affirm.