Caleb, Joshua, and Relentless Hope

My husband and I were invited by the parents of our son Caleb’s best friend to a Passover Seder in late March. Our hosts, who are “cultural” Jews, asked each person to prepare a reflection to read at the table. Most of the guests chose to talk about current and historical events in the United States. I decided to explore the theme of faith in God’s promises in the Old Testament.

Abby and Bob, we’re all friends through Cooper and Caleb’s wonderful friendship. So, it seemed appropriate to me tonight to tell a story that’s linked to Passover, but also explains why we named our son “Caleb.”

Here’s a quick story about that hero of Hebrew history, CALEB.

After the Hebrews had been freed from slavery in Egypt, God promised them the land of Canaan.

The Promised Land had fertile fields, lots of fruit trees, but more important it was a place to call home.

The Hebrews so wanted to rest in that beautiful place after all those years of slave labor and humiliation.

But they began to wonder if they were perhaps dreaming. . . .

Wasn’t this promise just a bit too good to be true?

Could it be a figment of their desperate imaginations—like a mirage in the desert that shows a pool of water that’s not really there?

So Moses sent 12 of his leaders, they were really “lookouts,” or spies, representing each of the 12 tribes of Israel, into Canaan to get the “lay of the land.”

Moses wanted to know . . . What were the coordinates over there in Canaan? What were they up against? Could they realistically take possession of this place?

Well, the spies did what Moses asked. They went to Canaan, scoped out the territory, and came back to Moses with their report.

THUMBS DOWN, many of them said.

No way could the Hebrew army overtake Canaan. The Hebrew army was just too small and too weak.  Some of the people in Canaan were giants, and they’d crush the Hebrews underfoot.

But not everyone said thumbs down. . . . Two of  the spies—Caleb and Joshua—came back and said THUMBS UP.

They said the Hebrew nation would get this job done. They could vanquish their enemy, overcome the challenges, and the Promised Land would be theirs.

Even though what they had seen with their eyes and heard with their ears was not entirely encouraging, they had relentless hope. And faith in the promise God had made.

The 12 tribes of Israel decided to take a vote, and Caleb and Joshua were voted down 10 to 2. Not even close.

So the group backed off from the idea of entering the Promised Land.

But it’s interesting to see how things ended up for the Hebrew people. . . . Not what you’d expect . . .

As the story goes, God got pretty angry with the Hebrews who had no hope.

During the 40 years in the desert, most of the Hebrews died.  Those who thought they were protecting their families by not sticking their necks out too far, by not taking action to realize a promise—in short, those who wanted all their ducks in a row as a defense against a future they thought held very little hope for them—those were the ones who did not survive.

Their strategy of self-preservation completely backfired and ended up in self-destruction.

The only two adults in the story whom God allowed to make it through the desert and into the Promised Land were . . . CALEB AND JOSHUA. . . .

So the guys who had the perseverance, the ones who decided to be relentlessly hopeful—those were the ones who made it through.

Like those ancient Hebrews, it seems every single person I know is anxious—really anxious—about the future. And from what we can see with our eyes and hear with our ears, it looks pretty challenging out there.

Will our children get a job at a time when there aren’t many jobs around? Will they be able to afford an apartment or a house? In 20 years, will they be able to drink water that’s safe and unpolluted?

This keeps me up at night, and it is so, so tempting to retreat like the Hebrews.

That’s why I’ve been thinking a lot these past few days about Caleb and Joshua. They said YES, we can do this, and we’ll find a way to do this. And it seems the scriptures are telling us that hope actually WORKS. It’s essential to improving things.

I love positive people; I instantly feel better about life when I’m around them. Hope has a way of spreading from person to person, like viral messages in cyberspace.

That’s why dictators around the world—who are our new Pharaohs—fear the Internet so much. Cyber-messaging has the ability to ignite hope instantly among thousands of people that there is a chance for freedom, that they are not alone.

Hope, when it spreads from person to person, can move events and change the world.

So, this Passover, let’s remember Caleb and Joshua.

mrs. Christine Tansey, O.P.

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