Covid lockdowns were costly in many ways – we will each be able to list the ways… and yet in some ways, for some, those lockdowns ushered in a simpler, slower pace of life as some responsibilities outside of home perhaps stopped, and there were fewer church responsibilities during this time (perhaps none at all). Over those many weeks, as we adapted to our shrunken horizons, perhaps it felt “easier” not having so many different things on the go beyond our immediate responsibilities at home. When lockdowns eased so that we could resume serving in the ways we did before, perhaps we wondered why we would choose to become so frantically busy again.
Like the old lady in Julia Donaldson’s “A squash and a squeeze” who realises her house is plenty big enough when she kicks out the animals that had been taking up the space – why would she invite them all back in again?!
Humanly speaking (and in line with much social-media wisdom), we would take stock at that point and not get so busy again. Choose wisely what we allow back onto the radar screen. Humanly speaking, it makes no sense to allow the diary to fill up again as it was before. And for some of us, that message will still be what we need to hear.
That said, some of us may be in a place where it is helpful to be spurred on in our heart-attitudes as we serve. It’s good and right to be busy again in the Lord’s work. As I’ve reflected on this at various points over the last couple of years, I’ve found that Hebrews 12:1-3 has helped me to look beyond the human wisdom that (if I’m honest) appeals very much to my longing for an easier, more comfortable life.
“1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.“
– Hebrews 12:1-3
These are the things it’s showing me:
- Fixing my eyes on Jesus (instead of on myself, or the world around me) reminds me that this world, and the things it offers are not forever. Furthermore, I need to remember that there are things that will hinder me, and sin that will entangle me – this requires me to be active in resisting those temptations (stronger than “resisting” … it says to “throw off” … which reminds me how insidious those things are). They’ll slow me down, trip me up, cause me to stumble. Action is required for those negative hindrances to be removed. They will look different for each of us – Social media? Others’ opinions of me (perceived or otherwise)? Fill in your own gaps …
- Why is it that I need to be less encumbered? Because I’m called to run a race. A race that demands perseverance (more than a quick sprint for a bus). Perseverance suggests the need to keep going at something that will be hard. By comparison, I can’t think of a time when I’ve been encouraged to ‘persevere’ with chocolate-eating or sunbathing… or anything that comes naturally to me.
- Key to persevering is to fix our eyes on Jesus – the one who has gone before and has finished ahead of us. The passage reminds us what kind of race was marked out for Him – one which involved a shameful cross, and opposition from sinners – and yet which he was able to endure “for the joy that was set before him” (v2).
- The terrain of the race track will differ for each of us, and yet remains the same in the sense that Jesus sits ahead of us, at the right hand of the throne of God – and fixing our sights on him – the pioneer and perfecter of faith – will be key to us finishing.
- Indeed fixing our eyes on him is not just the way to finish, but the way to endure/keep going too “… so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (v3). Which of us hasn’t felt weary or in danger of losing heart? Perhaps we’re feeling that all the more when it feels like there are fewer hands to the pump in our post-covid church families. It can feel like such hard work sometimes. Thankless even. Is it really worth it? If we are only looking around us when we ask this kind of question (which, honestly, most of us will ask at one point or another…) – the sacrifices, the hard work may well not feel worth it. The comfortable life will feel very much like the better portion. But when we consider Risen Jesus, and the eternity in glory that He holds ahead of us … whilst the work may not become easier in and of itself, my motivation, and my perspective surely shift.
Of course there is much wisdom in weighing carefully the balance of “activity” in our schedules; our circumstances, personal capacity – and the needs of those for whom we have care in our homes/wider families must all be thoughtfully and prayerfully considered. We will also want to take appropriate times to stop, to rest in Christ by faith, and to not be so busy – a reminder to us that we are finite beings that our Lord has designed to not be able to accomplish everything! And yet … I have found it a helpful (and time-and-time-again timely…) corrective to fix my eyes on Jesus, and to consider him, when I’m weighing up those decisions.
Jenny Bray is married to Richard, ministering in Limehouse, East London. She’s mother to 4 children and has a heart for women, ministering, counselling and caring for women in her parish and as well as further afield.