My husband and I watched the film "Iron Lady" a while ago - the story of Margaret Thatcher, one of Britain's longest-running Prime Ministers and the first woman to hold that office in the nation's history. I enjoyed the film and was particularly struck by one scene in which the PM is being interviewed on television. The host refers to her recent trip to the United States and asks what she learned while there.
"I learned that the people in the United States are not afraid of success," she said. An interesting and astute comment, I thought.
Then Sunday morning my husband preached on Joshua Chapter 3 - the scene at the Jordan River when God tells Joshua how it will be done. "They were to put their most precious possession, the Arc of the Covenant, into a raging torrent," my favourite preacher said. And they were to trust God for success in all the battles to come.
I wondered as I listened to my husband, what those people might have been thinking as they crossed into the Promised Land. Were they at last ready to do battle? Were they afraid? Did they perhaps glance up-river to make sure the priests were still standing steady with the Arc on their shoulders? Did they kick at the dry sand under their feet and tremble at what God had done?
I think the answer to all of the above is yes. They were ready, because God had been preparing them for forty years. But I think they were afraid and no doubt kept an eye on the Arc as they crossed. And no doubt they trembled. But they did what God told them to do. They trusted Him, at least in that moment, and were confident of success because He had promised it to them.
My favourite preacher asked an interesting question during his sermon. "What if success did not lie so much in what was to come but in the very crossing itself? What if the process was what would make them perfect, "refined ...in the fires of affliction?" (Isaiah 48:10)
I have just come through a process during which I was afraid and trembled and trusted God. And it left me believing that being afraid is not such a bad thing. It keeps us humble, keeps us on our knees, keeps us looking upstream for the source of our strength, God Himself.
As a writer, there have been times when I've been afraid of success and all the changes it could mean. (What if this manuscript really takes off and I have to travel all over the country and beyond?) And many more times when I've been afraid of failure. (What if this manuscript stinks and never gets published?) But I have been refined in the fires of the process more than once and learned that God is trustworthy. He will accomplish His purposes for my work, as He has promised.
So I've learned to put all my precious possessions - my family, my work, my hopes and dreams, into the middle of the torrent on God's shoulders. He will always stand steady. The middle of the torrent is the safest place for them to be.
Marcia's new novel, A Tumbled Stone was just released. Visit her website - www.vinemarc.com