After receiving a heartfelt prayer request this morning from a friend, and commiserating about our tendency to try to run the show, fix the broken, and move mountains via our own weakening strength, I am reminded of the import of recognizing when one is on ‘holy ground.’ As a mom, I have sometimes been struck by the audacity of trying to wear too many hats, interchanging them with split second timing. There are days I literally start chuckling to myself at how ridiculous a picture it makes. Flip, flash, swoosh, swish and I end up reeling, disoriented, from the whirlwind. As moms, we are called to be teacher, nutritionist, counselor, protector, provisioner, driver, friend, mentor, guide, discipliner, #1 fan, and discipler. Yeh, WHEW! On such momentary role changes, one often feels ill-equipped for the job. When a child is struggling, for reasons of sin, or genetics, or illness; or is made vulnerable by his own or others’ unwise or malicious choices, our confidence moves from, “This is just what I do,” to, “Lord God, what should I do????? As we rummage through our wardrobe for the wisdom hat, or the civil defender hat, or wait, maybe the exterminator’s hat?, we feel the pressing angst to ‘FIX!’ while carrying the weighted fear of “Have I failed, and if so, is it all beyond repair??? At times, the grief hat, is more than we can stand up under.
Joshua 5 recounts an encounter, at a time when Joshua and the Israelites are poised outside the walled city of Jericho. They have circumcised themselves anew, and celebrated the Passover after crossing the Jordan River, at God’s second walling of the water. They ate, not manna, but the fruit of Canaan. It was a time of celebration, of dedication of themselves, of receiving the fulfillment of God’s promises, of looking forward. At the risk of gross oversimplification, a moment that encompassed many of the daily commissions that raising children to be disciples of God holds as well; a great mixing of victory, defeat, re-purposing, redirecting, ect. Perhaps there was a bit of an adrenaline rush on that Jericho plain, that at least a few things were going right! And perhaps also the grave realization that a wrong move could result in years of grief and the need for restitution or repair.
Joshua encounters a man, drawn sword in hand. His focus forward-seeming, he gauges the implications for the coming battle, “Whose side are you on?” Whose side are you on???? I wonder if we too often take a pugilistic stance in the everyday skirmishes of life. ‘Are you for my kid, or against him…you just try and get near him…’ There’s no doubt that guerilla warfare is an integral part our caring for those under our protection and within our circle of influence. While we may realize we are doing battle, I suspect the recognition is not with near the frequency at which we are, or perhaps should be engaged (speaking to myself here). But against whom? Often, I think a greater oversight, is in our spotting of the enemy.
We live under the daily potential to abide, or dwell in the unchanging promise of life and blessing as the children of God. He has promised his continual presence, as we move forward from last week’s failure, to encounter tomorrow’s battle. We move forward with the hope of victory, the reality of past failures, the grief of remembered long journeys wrapped around us like so much battle garb – and we wonder who is for us, and who against, and how finely drawn are their swords? Caregiving, by nature, is often unexpectedly laden with Goliath-like odds.
Joshua’s man stipulated that he was neither on the side of Joshua, nor the enemy, and that he was in fact, the commander of the Lord’s army. The commander of the Lord’s army, doing what, exactly? Without hesitation, Joshua falls to the ground in submission to God’s plan, and upon asking what he is to do, is told to remove his shoes for he is standing on holy ground. God’s first command, in that place between history and moving forward, bypasses a focus upon the enemy and calls for Joshua to recognize God in his holiness. As he does so, Joshua submits to God’s chain of command as well. After all, Joshua was a leader in his own God-given right, just as you and I are positioned by God as parents and teachers and caregivers and mentors. But the tasks are God-given, and the methodology is his. The enemy question is answered with a, ‘This isn’t about you or the enemy, this is about God, and who He is.’
As we move, history-laden, to encounter tomorrow’s battle, perhaps it is not our shoes we need remove, but our hats – all of them – in reverence and hope that much of where we spend our days is holy ground. Take off our hats and preconceived notions, and bow in recognition that save the promises of God, we are ill-equipped to teach and care and provision and disciple. Take off our hats and kneel in hope that the “Same power that raised Jesus from the dead,”‘ (Eph.1:19 NIV) is available for our need today. Take off our hats and earthly agendas so we can better see that our enemy in hand-to-hand combat is not our child’s friend of questionable influence, or my spouse in his differing viewpoint, or the aloof administrator. Nor is it the Jericho-like walls of the medical system; but rather the one who opposes God’s holy purpose to receive each of our loved ones unto himself in intimate relationship, a reality that he has made possible through the saving blood of his Only Son.
Somehow, having an unclouded picture of the enemy, and an accurate assessing of one’s own strength diminishes panic. Just after the Jordan River crossing (Joshua 4:24 NIV), Joshua told the Israelites, “He (the Lord your God) did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”
It is as if he says to us, ‘I did this – this yesterday victory – walled up this mighty wall of water allowing you to cross, so that you would know whom to fear… where to place your awe… ‘ Take off your shoes, you are standing on holy ground. Take off your hats, you abide on holy ground.