Joshua 1-3: Crossing the Jordan
Moses has died. How different the Promised Land must have looked to Joshua and the people of Israel as they viewed the land beyond the Jordan through grief-stricken eyes. They had envisioned coming to the Promised Land with Moses, and now they would be entering it without him. It must have been a bittersweet moment. I always thought that God’s command to be strong and courageous was due to the leadership responsibilities that Joshua would face. Now, however, I think that God’s promise to always be with him had a lot to do with comforting Joshua as he grieved the death of Moses. God would still bring the people Israel to the Promised Land. Though Moses had died, the hope of God’s promised future was still alive.
This is the scripture that came to my mind as I stood at the threshold of the new year. I was not looking forward to it; I just wanted to go to bed and sleep through this event that so many were celebrating. My brother, Nick, tragically and suddenly died in a motorcycle accident four months ago; to be exact, it has been eighteen weeks and three days. I will never forget that call at 4:00 a.m. on August 28th that informed me that my brother had died. I never considered the possibility that I would have to learn to live my life without my brother. Yet, here I am, trying to pick up the pieces, trying to make sense of something that will never make sense.
The last six weeks of 2015 consisted of many major events: my Dad’s birthday, Thanksgiving, my birthday, Christmas, and finally New Year’s. During the last few days of December I thought about how difficult November and December had been emotionally. There was not a birthday call from Nick; I did not get to see him doing his traditional Christmas grilling; and my boys did not get their annual toy from Uncle Nick that was purposely chosen as means to drive me crazy. I had survived, but then there I was facing another cultural construct that dictated that I celebrate the entrance of a new year. I did not want to celebrate; all I wanted to do was grieve. How could I welcome the start of a new year that my brother did not live to see?
It was while I was in the midst of these reflections, that I was called and asked to preach the next day (the last Sunday of 2015). Knowing that I was going to have to address the coming of the new year in my sermon, I prayed and asked God to show me a way to see and speak of the new year with hope. God answered! As I read and mediated on Joshua 1-3, I saw with new eyes-the eyes of person in the midst of grief. The people of Israel crossed the Jordan and they entered the Promised Land, despite Moses not being with them, despite the fact that they were grieving. It reminded me that the great things that God has purposed for me are still there, waiting for me. My life has changed, I have changed, and I will continue to grieve for a long time, yet, there is hope for this year because my broken heart does not change what God has planned for my life. Though I have crossed the Jordan and entered the New Year with tears in my eyes, a broken heart, and riding an emotional roller coaster of grief; I have entered it clinging to the hope of God, knowing that God has plans for me, great plans (Jer. 29:11).
God tells me to be strong and courageous for the road before me will be difficult. Yet I can draw strength and courage from the Lord, and I can rejoice that God will be with me as I navigate through this new land and learn how to live my life without Nick. I continue to grieve. I still have a lot of tears to shed; I’m a sister who misses her brother. My pain is deep because my love for him was so strong. I’ve lost my childhood companion and partner in crime, my counterpart, my friend for life. I’ve lost my brother. Though I am walking on a path of pain and loss, it is not a road devoid of hope, joy, peace, and happiness. There is hope beyond the Jordan, and God has blessed me by being able to see it in the midst of my grief.”Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted” (Mt. 5:4).
I love you, Nicky!!! Your sister, Shell.