The well-known expression, “getting your feet wet” is usually taken to mean “just getting started.” In The Bible, however, there is a story that gives the expression a slightly different meaning.
In the beginning of the book of Joshua, we read the story about the people of Israel crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land. This is after Moses had led them out of Egypt and through the wilderness. Just after Moses’ death, Joshua becomes the leader of the people. God gives Joshua the instructions to relay to the people.
Joshua said to the priests of Israel, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.” So they took it up and went ahead of them. And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’ ” (Joshua 3:6-8 NIV)
Not only are the priests of the people of Israel given the instructions to walk into the river carrying a large gold-covered chest, but we are also told in the story that these instructions were given at a time when the river was flooded. Fortunately, we are told that God performed a miracle similar to the one done when the Red Sea was parted so that the Israelites could walk through on dry land.
“Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground” (Joshua 3:6-8, 15-17 NIV).
In the context of this story, “getting your feet wet” indicates a couple of different things. First, it means taking an initial step, not knowing how things will work out. Often we have to do this in life. In life, there certainly are no guarantees and life generally does not go as one expects or perhaps would prefer. And yet, in order to truly live, we have to be willing to move forward with uncertainty.
“Getting your feet wet” also refers here to the willingness to take a risk and trust. Many things in life are a risk. Moving, taking a new job, getting married, having children etc. are all risks. It is one thing to take a risk on your own just because you want to. It is another thing to take a step of faith because you believe that God is calling you to it.
Part of the message of the Christian faith is that God calls us to live our lives as a grateful response to the gifts that God has given. We discover purpose and meaning as we repond to God’s call. Local churches are prepared to help people to hear and to answer God’s call. Perhaps it is a time in your life to listen for that call and to “get your feet wet.”
Reverend Gerald Casson is Pastor at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church in Johnson City, TN.