Summary: Many things look impossible, particularly if we are worn down by the "too much" of survival. But there are those who go before us and test the waters and make a way for us. We need to do the same for others. Black History Month
Have you enjoyed watching the Winter Olympics? Isn’t it amazing what those skaters and the skiers can do? Isn’t it astounding that human bodies can plummet down slopes and whiz through channels at what seems like supersonic speed? I’ve only seen snatches of the Olympics, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all I have seen. And I’ve learned some things too.
First I learned what a luge is. I learned that a luge is not a distasteful vegetable! It is not a heavy-footed dance step! I learned that a luge is a particular kind of sled!
After I learned what a luge is, then I found out about the biathlon. As I understand it, to compete in the biathlon, you have to ski cross country, most of it uphill, and then, while your heart and lungs are screaming for mercy, you are supposed to pull your rifle out and squeeze off several rounds at various targets, all within a very short time and in various postures. The biathlon is one of those events that seems just about impossible. The obstacles are too great, the challenges are too difficult, the timing is too short … it just doesn’t seem possible.
And yet there are people who do it and who do it well. I understand that it developed out of the experiences of border patrols protecting the boundary between Sweden and Norway when the Nazis occupied Norway. Out of that history the biathlon was born.
Necessity is the mother of invention, they say; and a little deeper than that, the desire to accomplish something important, the need to protect something valuable: that can motivate you, even when the obstacles are great.
I expect most of us have had the experience of facing an insurmountable barrier to something we wanted to do. Probably you’ve had those times in your life when you wanted to get on with it, but everything seemed to be stacked against you: too much work to do, too many conflicts in the family, too many bills to pay, too much to do all at once. Do you know what that feels like? I expect it feels something like drowning. You just feel engulfed, taken over, by all kinds of things. Too much! "Stop the world, I want to get off!" And you think you will just about drown.
I remember feeling that way several years ago. I remember getting a letter from my supervisor in which he pushed me to meet another one of his goals -- not my goals, mind you, but his goals. He reminded me that I was still not up to par on the last eight or ten such letters. It felt overwhelming.
And as I sat and read and re-read that letter that afternoon, I began to add up the stresses. I thought about the stack of bills on my desk at home, and how I had used up what little savings we had to try to cover those. I thought about the degree program I was trying to finish, and all the deadlines that were just accumulating, one right after another. I thought about a wife and little children at home, depending on me not only for financial support but also for emotional and spiritual support. When I added it up, I just collapsed. I just came apart.
Literally what I did that afternoon was to get in my car and go driving, all afternoon and much of the night. I could not then nor can I now tell you where I went or what I did … it’s all a blank. By the time I did get home, my wife had everybody but the FBI looking for me. I just disappeared and have no memory of about twelve or fourteen hours of that day. I overloaded. I was overwhelmed. Too much.
That and worse is what can happen when the barriers seem too big and the obstacles seem too high.
Imagine, then, how Joshua felt when he and the people of Israel got to the River Jordan, which they had to cross in order to get to the land of promise. The people had been traveling through the wilderness for a generation; under the leadership of Moses they had endured hunger and thirst, heat and cold, rebellions and recriminations.
They were tired. They were just plain tired. They were exhausted. Too long, too much, too hard, too frustrating. And now, one more river to cross. The River Jordan, standing between them and the land of promise. I can hear them now sighing and groaning and looking at all that water: one more river to cross. How do we get over? And I’m sure their leader, Joshua, felt the same way.
There’s something about that River Jordan, however, that you would not guess just from reading the text of the Scriptures. There is a little secret about that river.