Like the advent of new-fallen snow, so arrives the freshness of God’s Word to my soul.
A picture really, just as clear and crisp and breathtaking as the pristine white that my northern neighbors are experiencing this day. When I hear them speak of winter’s gift, a bit of envy creeps over me. I love seasonal shifts and their accumulations therein. Unfortunately, where I live doesn’t accommodate the four seasons in their fullness, especially winter. We just pretend down here in the south; bump up the thermostat and pull out the sweaters when the temps plummet below sixty degrees, thinking white might come at any moment but never really experiencing its arrival… at least not in the way that we had hoped.
So I was surprised today to receive a first snowfall… to look up and feel the flakes as they gently touched my cheeks and tendered my soul; not literally, but spiritually speaking. No forecaster predicted it; even I was skeptical of its arrival, but it came despite my being ill-prepared. Not from a cloud as some might imagine, but rather from the pen of a friend. Her words stirred my longing for a further look into God’s Word, and the deeper I dug into Scripture and subsequent thought, the greater the accumulation of white around my feet.
Tonight, I’m knee deep into Jesus, and I can’t think of a better way to honor my friend’s work (a.k.a. Leah Adams) than by telling you about the snapshot I’m holding in my heart because of her obedience to write her first Bible study, From the Trash Pile to the Treasure Chest: Creating a Godly Legacy.
It’s a picture I’ve skimmed over a few times before, but never quite in the detail as I’ve witnessed it in the last twenty-four hours. A portrait from the third chapter of Joshua where the Israelites are crossing the Jordan River in order to take possession of the land promised to them by God. Prior to their marching across on dry land, the priests carried the Ark of the Covenant ahead of them. The ark represented the presence of the living God. It preceded the faith of God’s people, always “going before” them to mark their path and to lead their way. As the ark moved, so did the Israelites. And so it was on this day in biblical history. The ark took the lead; the people followed behind.
But then, the ark stopped… midstream. It stood still as the people passed it by, a fact most of us know and carry as truth. However, there is a lesser known understanding that comes with this truth… one I hadn’t considered before. When the Israelites caught up with the ark and stood parallel to God’s tangible presence, they had a choice to make. To stand still and wait for the ark to lead them forward or to move beyond it without the benefit of its visible leadership. This, my friends, is the fresh-fallen white I hold in my heart tonight. A portrait of faith from a people who walked the Jordan through—not with God at their lead, but with God at their backs. Not a go before God this time around, but rather a come behind God after faith took its first steps toward promised freedom.
Certainly, God pointed them in the right direction. Faith always initiates with God; it ends with him as well, but in the middle of the Jordan—when faith arrives at what Leah calls a “hinge moment”—we have the unbelievable privilege of walking resolutely forward, all the while knowing that behind us are a set of eyes keeping watch to make sure that our backs are covered. To follow in our shadows and to protect us from a rear vantage point.
So often in our faith journeys, we focus on the forward aspect of the road—our “up ahead” and what might be coming. So often our prayers are directed accordingly. But do we ever take the time to consider our “over the shoulders”—the backward actions that accompany our forward steps? I know I certainly haven’t thought about it very much… about all the ways that God is backing me up to ensure my safe landing on the other side. In fact, if I were really honest, it’s those backward shadows that sometimes trip me up the most. I’ve always seen God in the lead, but rarely do I consider his faithfulness from behind.
In the wake of my cancer diagnosis and treatment therein, I’m tempted to keep God at the lead in all things, even though some days I strain to see his discerning movements on my behalf. But as I progress, as I move forward through the Jordan (a river that seems to be perpetually at “flood stage” status), I feel the weightiness of my movement… of what it has cost me, and I sometimes feel left to my own devices to recover from its effects. Almost as if God is out in front, but as it pertains to my behind, I’m all alone. And I know it’s not truth; still and yet, knowing isn’t always enough fuel for my believing.
So God graciously sends me a picture—a fresh-fallen white as pristine and clear as I’ve ever experienced. A seasonal shift for my understanding. A portrait of a faithful Presence who stands mid-stream, not to abandon my forward progression but to buoy my backward angle. To make sure that everything left in the wake of my tentative steps of forward faith are covered by his grace and mercy and watchful care.
And this helps me understand God a little more. Helps me see his covenantal love from another angle. Helps me formulate a better perspective regarding the behind that inevitably follows my forward. Helps me know that he’s got me covered from every angle and that no matter the consequential results of my stepping through the Jordan, the waters will remain stacked on my behalf until I’ve made it through to the other side. Only then will God release those waters to cover up and cleanse every last remnant of my left behind that isn’t in keeping with his perfect conclusion.
It’s a portrait worth holding onto in this season, friends, and as I made my way outside this afternoon for a walk, there came a moment when I looked back over my shoulder, literally. I could almost see God there… faithfully gazing in my direction, waving me on and nodding his approval. And even though the temperature read fifty degrees and the skies were cloudless, I could have sworn I felt a snowflake on my face… wet and pristine, with a heart accumulation beyond measure.
A winter’s gift of white. I’ll make sure and carry this picture with me in the coming week, believing that my up ahead will arrive with a guarantee of God’s come behind.
Thank you, Leah, for leading me to deep waters and for obeying God’s prompt to pen this study. He is using it mightily in my heart, and I feel so privileged to be walking my winter season with your thoughts at the lead and with God’s Word at my side. Keep to it, mighty woman of faith. May the Lord bless you, keep you, and watch over you as you walk forward to the Promised Land. I join you, alongside all of my readers, on the road. Until next time…
Peace for the journey,
Thanks to everyone who left a comment for Chris Tomlin’s new CD. The three winners (as drawn by my kids) are lioneagle, Heather, and Jacquelyn. Please e-mail me your snail mail, and I will get these to you as soon as I’m able. Congrats! Now regarding my day…