What if?

In my best moments, when I calm down and listen closely, God says, “I didn’t ask you to become new and improved today. That wasn’t the goal. You were broken down and strange yesterday, and you still are today, and the only one freaked out about it is you.”   — Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines

I was standing at the front of my first, very own classroom. And in less than fifteen minutes, thirty-two students would fill the desks in front of me. Thirty-two sets of eyes, sixty-four individual irises, would be staring at me. Me. Waiting for me to lead them into and through the next ten months of Sophomore English.

A room full of students would be relying on me alone to explain the difference between a colon and a semicolon. And what if I couldn’t? Let’s be real, no one except English nerds even know what a semicolon looks like, much less how to use one! What if they fail semicolons? What if they fail my class? What if they never graduate and it’s all because I couldn’t explain semicolons?!?!?

I hadn’t thought about that nerve-racking first day of teaching in years, but those feelings came back to me this morning as I read the Old Testament story of Joshua and tried to imagine his feelings when he was chosen as Moses’ successor. Sure, Joshua had been assisting Moses for quite a while and had even been part of a group sent to spy on Canaan. But, just like student teaching isn’t the same as being in charge of your own classroom, helping Moses wasn’t anywhere near the same as replacing him.

Can you imagine Joshua’s fear when Moses called him to stand in front of all the tribes of Israel, charged him with leading the people into the Promised Land, and gave him the responsibility of putting them in possession of it? (Deut. 31)  Or after Moses’ death when the Lord himself (OMG!!) looked right at Joshua and said, “Arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel.” (Joshua 1:2)

Joshua had to be afraid. He had to wonder: What if I fail?  

God knew what lay ahead of Joshua, and you know what? He wasn’t in a panic over it. Apparently, Joshua was showing some anxiety, though, because God felt it necessary to say to him three times,

Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you…. Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:6-7, 9)

Worry and anxiety weren’t going to help Joshua lead the Israelites, and they didn’t help me lead students. The next time you’re feeling weak, be strong; when you’re feeling afraid, be courageous; and always remember, God is with you.

Father, help us to remember your presence in those times when we’re feeling fragile and anxious. Pour your strength and courage out on us and comfort us through your everlasting love. Amen.