Reflection April 20

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

Hebrews 12:1-3

 I teach third grade. And it’s the middle of April. For those of you who are teachers, you know what this means.

 We’re not going to make it.

 Every year starts the same. Energy. Optimism. Innovation. Idealism. Collaboration.  An engaged class. An invested teacher.

 Then April comes along. It’s not a slow, gradual descent into the wilderness. No. The bottom falls out. The Earth’s crust gives way and my classroom plummets into the abyss. It’s like when your parents would pretend to drop you but catch you at the last moment. Except nobody caught us. We just hit the ground and got the wind knocked out of us.

 Every year it happens the same way. Depletion. Depression. Regression. A third grade class that acts, thinks, and works like second graders.  A thirty-one year old teacher that acts, thinks, and works like a third grader.

 We’ve been running this race since the beginning of the year. We started it like a sprint and we’ve done great up until this point. But we all just figured out it was a marathon.

 And we’re not going to make it.

 It’s melodramatic, I know. But it’s how I feel right now as a teacher. We actually are going to make it. And everybody is going to be alright and probably end with our dignity intact. It’s just really hard right now.

 It’s how I feel most days and in most seasons of my life in my relationship with Jesus. I feel like I am in this unbroken cycle of sprint, stop, sprint, stop, etc. Sprint seasons are full of Bible studies, sermon podcasts, spiritual disciplines, seeking community, praying with my wife before bed without falling asleep. Stop seasons are full of isolation, bad habits, quickness to anger, and unhealthy introspection (which actually leads to decent songwriting...but that’s beside the point).

Until recently, I thought that’s just how it goes. Seasons that weave in and out of closeness to Christ. Maybe that’s just how I’m wired: to endlessly alternate between hot and cold, fiery and fickle.

 The truth is, I was never a runner, so the idea of “running a race” doesn’t compute. I was the one that lagged behind as the backs of my teammates grew smaller with each trudge forward. And at my weakest, I think I see Jesus up there, setting the pace for a 7 minute mile with my brothers and sisters shoulder to shoulder with him. Keeping up with him. They grow distant on the horizon as I drag my face on the pavement trying to achieve the most modest of forward motions.

 I’m not going to make it.

 But I don’t think that’s it. I think our world wants us to think that’s it; that we need to keep up, accumulate, busy ourselves, and identify with something apart from Christ. And I’ll be honest, on most days, I seem pretty bought into that. But I don’t think Jesus has challenged us to run after him at a pace we can’t achieve. He’s not up there a quarter mile away, turning around, waving his arm forward, and telling us to catch up.

 He is inviting us to walk beside him. To walk with him. To abide in him, to call him our comfort, our place of refuge.

 Endurance. I’m not good at it. I can’t even say the word endure correctly, just ask the singers on the worship team. But through the grace and strength of the Spirit, we are welcomed into life with Christ, to walk with him, to abide in him. To endure the race with him, even though the ability to endure is a gift from him.

 Andy Thomas