"But my servant, Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me wholeheartedly, I will bring into the land into which he went and he shall possess it."
Caleb indeed had a different spirit. When he and the other Israelite scouts scoped out the Promised Land, most of them were terrified. They passed that terror on to the people. The land "devour(ed) its inhabitants" and was filled with giants. "We seemed like grasshoppers," they reported. Not surprisingly, the Israelites cried out to Moses, "let us go back to Egypt!"
Only Caleb and Joshua offered a different vision. "Let us go up at once into this land" Caleb proclaimed. The God who had been with the Israelites all the way from Egypt was still with them. Therefore they could move into the future with confidence. Caleb's "different spirit" gave him the courage to follow God wholeheartedly even into unknown territory.
One of my Calebs was Dennis Keith, a life-long member of Tempe (Arizona) First Congregational UCC and my 7th grade Sunday School teacher. A twenty-something police detective with a wife and two children, Dennis devoted his Sunday mornings to helping a dozen squirmy 12-year-olds move into adulthood with an adult faith.
Feeling like grasshoppers is a good description of the fearsome new territory of adolescence. As Caleb did with the Israelites, Dennis Keith reminded us that even in 7th grade, God was still with us. With God's help, we could navigate that strange new world.
Dennis Keith died this past week while I was working on this reflection. I thank God for his life and for all the other Calebs who give us the confidence to follow God wholeheartedly, even into strange new territory, even when we feel like grasshoppers.
Thank you, God, for your Calebs who give us courage and faith to navigate our lives. Amen.