It’s late August, and the ironweed boasts deep purple blossoms among fields of green and gold. We stand at the end of the driveway with anxious hearts. I honestly believed I’d be more nervous than our extroverted five-year-old, but it seems she’s the one with the jitters. We review the directions to her classroom for the third time, and I remind her to focus on eating her sandwich at lunchtime and review the importance of washing her hands in the restroom.
As the engine of the school bus groans its visceral call and carries my precious firstborn to the care of people I hardly know, I’m surprised I don’t cry. Instead, I walk quietly back to the house with thoughts of her little brother asleep in his crib. It seems this transition to kindergarten is simply a necessary part of the progression of her life, and I’m at peace about letting it unfold.
The evening is a different story. Exhausted from her first long day in the classroom, the child I’ve enjoyed for the past five years is nowhere to be seen. Instead, an exhausted shell of a little girl crashes onto the couch with demands about juice and absolutely no desire to comply with any of my motherly requests. She wakes up an hour later with frantic tears about the moment she couldn’t find the classroom and how scary it was and how she doesn’t want to go back. My heart breaks just a little.
A year later, we’re staring down the face of first grade, and little Bekah is excited and only slightly nervous. She can’t wait to see the familiar faces, deliver a gift to last year’s teacher, and dive into all the fun that awaits. I find myself remembering how scary the step into kindergarten often felt for her and how sometimes, there’s just no way around the next frightening step.
I wonder if this is how God’s people felt after wandering in the desert for four decades. They finally reach the gateway to the land he has promised for them, and the formidable Jordan River lies between the people and the land they will call home. Joshua, their fearless leader, proceeds to command the Levites to step into the water.
These are the holy men who have been carrying the ark of God toward the Promised Land. They are set apart for special service. They literally carry the presence of the Living God. And they are called to step into the flowing waters of the river.
I wonder if this step was scary. I wonder if they questioned the command and if they hesitated. They were well aware that God had the power to move the water, as evidenced forty years earlier when Moses raised his staff and the waters of the Red Sea parted. But the waters of the Jordan showed no signs of parting, and yet they were asked to step into the river.
Sometimes we’re called to step into the next assignment before we see a comforting amount of evidence that God is working in our midst. Sometimes we’re called to step into the water when there’s no sign God’s going to part it. Sometimes we’re called to step into a new place of ministry or a new season of life before we have confidence that God really will make a way.
While we’re not to make unwise decisions without consulting God, there are times when we must take the first step without knowing the final outcome or even seeing the immediate provision.
Feet in the swirling water, the Levites held the ark. They watched, as after the first step of faith, God performed yet another miracle with the water. He drew the river back and provided a way across the Jordan on dry ground. They simply had to step out in obedience for the miracle to take place.
Starting kindergarten is a large life event, but for those of us who have conquered the challenge, it now seems quite small. But we all face challenges on the horizons of our lives. Often, the best thing we can do is pray it through, ask God for direction, seek wise counsel, line it up with the Word of God, and when all of these steps confirm the decision, step out in faith.
And so we lay out the clothes for the first day of school this year. We pack the backpack and stock the cupboards with small containers of applesauce and granola bars. We pray for Bekah’s teacher and her classmates and the children who will be her close friends. And we step into the water.