|Photo by Rachel Kramer (CC BY 2.0)|
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart." (Hebrews 12:1-3 NRSV)
If you've ever saved money for concert tickets, a new phone, or a big vacation, you'll know something about sacrificing short-term comfort for a delayed pay-off. This was certainly the case last year, when I spent months setting aside money to take my daughter on a vacation to Amsterdam and Paris. I got by on the bare minimum for months, always with my eye on the prize. Thankfully, the trip went off without a hitch.
What the writer of Hebrews suggests was going through Jesus' mind as he faced brutal torture and a violent, slow death takes it to another level. Granted, the historical Jesus quite likely didn't think anything like this, but the Christ of believing imagination certainly would have. What is one man's suffering, no matter how terrible, if he is looking forward to full restoration to life and the salvation of the world as a result?
We don't have guarantees of an easy life. In fact, we can all be certain that we'll experience pain, loss, and grief, no matter how sunny the rest of our lives might possibly be. Some seem to get it in greater measure than others, without rhyme or reason. We can't control the past, as it is gone, and we can't control the future, as it is not yet here and there are too many variables. In fact, we can barely control ourselves in this present moment, with our bodies apt to experiences the likes of indigestion or arthritis. However, we can manage our expectations, and we can set goals and attempt to steer our ship towards them.
Given how little we do control, we might feel helpless. That's valid. Personally, I feel relieved that after all I can do, there's no more that I can do. Seeing the violence of children taken from parents at the southern US border, witnessing the kakistocracy currently in power favoring the wealthy and corporations over real people who have to work for a living, I often feel overwhelmed. Then I remind myself that there's only so much I can do, so I should do that. Knowing that there's a great movement of fellow resistance fighters looking for hope, and casting off the distractions and in-fighting that can hold us back, let's keep running this marathon. Whether we live to see a generation grow up without war, disease, or hunger is beside the point. It's a joyful goal worth striving for with everything we've got.