Real Mission: Strength for the Journey
In life and in death there are moments that require great strength: a reminder that I was given this week as I attended the small backyard baby shower of our friends next door and as I held the hand of my great uncle who went home on Hospice care. It is amazing that all of this can happen just in one day.
As I watched her waddle and watched him cry, I was reminded of how beautiful life is, and also how difficult life is. In the beginning and in the end, the love of family surrounds us as we traverse unchartered territories, as we celebrate and endure endings and new beginnings, as we say goodbye and as we say hello.
But what about all of the time in-between? What about the voyage? I don’t know about you, but this week reminded me that I need some strength for the dash in between my beginning and my end; a little strength for the journey. With school starting this week, and parents visiting from out of town, and summer drawing to a close, I have been aptly reminded that life is full and complex. That even in the midst of a pandemic, schedules must be kept, and deadlines are real, and having a plan helps make it all happen.
God willing, life is long, and living is beautiful, but God also knows that we all need a little strength for the journey.
As I see it, Jesus found strength for his journey in two ways: communion with others and the solitude of prayer.
We know intimately the strength needed for Jesus’s beginning and Jesus’s end. The angel, the census, the manger, the gifts from foreign astrologers, the arrest, the trial, the cross, forgiveness.
But what we don’t talk as much about is the strength that Jesus received for the journey. We don’t know much about the first thirty years, but I bet Mary and Joseph had a plan to make it all happen: education, meals, trips to visit family, births and times of mourning.
What we do see in the Gospels is the real and acute reality that in-between the beginning and the end that we know so well, Jesus too needed strength for the journey. He often gathered with friends and followers to share a meal. He took long walks with friends. And, when life got too hectic and everyone needed something from him, he set aside time for solitude, and went up the mountain to pray.
Those of you who know me well know that the first of these wisdom learnings from Jesus comes quite naturally to me. I love to be with friends and family and Redeemerites. I love to make new friends and try new foods. But what I’ve had to work at in my marriage with mission is the prayerful solitude piece. Maybe you are better at one of these than the other too?
I have many close friends and family members that are great at being, just being, them and God. Sometimes in nature, sometimes with a good book, sometimes making music; but fellow sojourners seem an optional addition to the journey.
Well, I’m learning from Jesus during a time when that which comes naturally to me isn’t really an option. Dinner parties and community conferences aren’t really an option right now, and so I’m having to look to Jesus to learn how to gain strength for my journey through prayer and solitude. I planted a garden and got back to praying before bed (the only real opportunity for solitude as a mother of two small children). I started writing more of my own prayers for special occasions, though I still love the ones in the back of the Book of Common Prayer; and, when I am being especially intentional, I go out for walks with my good friend Jesus.
I imagine you too have found some ways to strengthen your Spirit during this difficult time. Maybe you have found strength for your journey in ways that I’ve described, or maybe you’d be willing to share your wisdom with me or others as we look for fortification for a marathon that we thought might be a simple walk around the block.
“…suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us…” Romans 5:3-5
The journey through Covid, I pray, will be just a little dot on the map of our lives. Something that we will look back on and see how it changed us, for better or for worse. But all in all, it is just a part of our journey, as individuals and as a community. It will change the way we worship, and it will change the way we engage our life of mission, and it will change the way we find togetherness and belonging. Someday, we will look back on this time and it will feel small. But we will remember how and where we found strength for the journey.
I invite you to join me in looking to Jesus our great exemplar as we search for strength, as we search for the will to persevere, as we persist in creativity and connection, as we acknowledge our shortcomings and find the patience to try things that don’t come so naturally.
Will you join me in the journey? Will you let me give to you a bit of my strength? And when you have some to spare, will you share your strength with me? We are in this together, and with our faith in hand I believe we will find beauty together along the way.
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