We read the Bible stories so many times, perhaps, that we lose our ability to see how very real they all are. We know how the story ends, we know God shows up, and so that makes it very tough for us to see how scary it was for Abram and Sarai to pick up and head west towards Canaan. We know God is out there in Sinai, among the rocks and the dry ground and the wild wilderness, so it almost impossible for us to understand the fear in the gut of the Hebrews when Moses and Aaron led them away from the security of Egyptian slavery towards the unknown.
Where was Moses leading them? How was this going to end? They didn't really know and yet they packed their things -quickly!- and headed off. In the direction of two barriers that seemed impassable: the sea and the desert.
We've slipped into March. I am in a new place. The last time I "blogged" we were living north of highway 30. In Elkhart. Now we are south of that by a fair distance. Instead of looking out my study windows to see the St. Joseph River in Elkhart, which had become home in all sorts of deep ways, I look out my study window in Bloomington. To see a small hill on the other side of a creek. I wonder what the trees will look like, on that hill, when the leaves come in this spring.
The Christian way is a life that moves through death and discovers -when we live with God and for Jesus- resurrection on the other side. I have told close friends that my decision to be obedient to the whispers of God in the call to Bloomington meant that I have carried "the cross" of saying goodbye to people I love very, very much. The pain of that leaving was almost more than I could bear. (It was also true when we left New Haven back in 1996 for Elkhart: I thougth I was going to die. A close friend, my associate pastor there, said he thought I would never survive another move.)
Here is the discovery I have made: God is on the other side of the river. When the Hebrews, in Joshua 3, go across the Jordan River they discover God is at work on the other side of the river. There is life on the other side of the wandering time, the leaving chapter, even if it is in a place that isn't familiar as the place you have left.
Whatever river you are facing I want to tell you something I know, something I have experienced: God is on the other side of the river. God is over there in that new chapter with all of its questions and uncertainty.
I find myself being thankful. I find myself lighting up when I see the faces and hear the voices of those in Bloomington who are already becoming living treasure to me.
God is on the other side of the river. I want you to know that.