Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏹️

The crossing of the River Jordan, painting by Karel van Mander, 1605

And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan.
Joshua 3:17

The Exodus begins with Moses parting the sea of reeds and the Israelites freeing themselves from slavery. It takes forty years of wandering in the wilderness before they finally enter the promised land, again crossing water, this time the Jordan river, parted for them by Joshua. The pattern is complete. From birth (leaving Egypt) to manhood (entering Canaan) the wilderness years represent the maturing of a people from a rabble into a nation.1 Crossing water is the metaphorical right of passage from a lower state of maturity to a higher one. The two water-partings neatly bookend the wilderness adventure.

Such symmetry in story offers the reader/listener a sense of completion. A pattern that has been opened for us, is now closed. Our emotional state can move from aroused to relaxed, peaceful in the knowledge that all is as it should be. It isn't so much happy endings that we seek, it is simply the completion of that which was started. Happy endings, and closure, are final. Only death can follow. Pattern completion is not final, only an episode in the great story of life.

The Bible is alive with pattern, with symmetry, rhythm, repetition; an intricate tapestry of history, fable, and metaphor, a wondrous treasure trove of poetry, story, magical realism, and a deep, deep truth. To read this collection of books literally, to believe it as dogmatic fact, is to miss its beauty. Fact isn't truth. Fact is statements of assumed empirical accuracy, too often spoken to oppress, to diminish, to isolate us from discovery, to deny mystery. Truth in contrast is a vague sense of knowing, it is wonder; it flows through and beyond the body, connecting human to human, and human to animal, to plant, to the earth, to everything animate and inanimate. If we find the patterns of life we get to live it in wholeness. Everything connects, and everything matters.

The Israelites, on the brink of entering the promised land are given the gift of a parting river, but far greater than that they are given the gift of mystery, the gift of awe and wonder, the gift of God's blessing and God's love. It is this more than anything that prepares them for the work ahead.

1 cf Wilderness