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.
Today's passage is special to me because it was the inspiration for this blog, the source of its title, and also serves as a kind of a perpetual reminder of what my business is on this largish, whirling ball of rock and water. It reminds me that my life--my marriage, my home school, my child raising, everything--is a sort of race. I have trained for it even before I had a hint that I might be doing it, and to finish it will take more than merely doing my best. It will take an endurance that is far beyond me. It will take me looking to Jesus--fixing my eyes on Him so firmly that all else fades into black and I keep going, not from any strength of will that is left to me but because the vision of Glory at the end of the tunnel that perpetually draws me homeward.
It is not just the reminder of the Purpose of the race, however. I also love the bit right before that, though--the bit about laying aside every weight and sin that clings so closely. This is a reminder to me of the two things that hinder me in the completion of this race. One is sin, naturally. The sin I allow myself to become mired in does cling like so much heavy mud, impeding my ability to press onward toward my goal, at times even constraining me to the point of a spiritual immobility. I can become confined by my own sin, imprisoned. Yet because Christ has set me free from the bondage to sin, it is a prison I allow. I love the reminder that I do not have to submit to to sin's claim of mastery. I belong to the Lord who give Himself for me, and so thanks to His power at work on my behalf, I can lay the encumbrance of sin aside--an action that does not connote great effort but merely decision. Thanks to Him I am free, so I ought to run as only a free woman can run.
But its the other thing--the laying aside of every weight--that I find I need the most frequent need of reminding. I do often allow myself to become The Greek word translated as "weight" is transliterated ogkos, and according to Thayer's dictionary means, "...Protuberance, bulk, mass... hence, a burden, weight, encumbrance." Why, when I read that definition, do I hear so clearly Jesus' words, "Take my yoke upon you...for my yoke is easy and my burden is light?" Besides the weight of sin which I allow to inhibit me in my progress down the path, there are the many burdens I heap on that are not necessarily sin but are not explicitly given to me by God either. They are the bulky items I add to my agenda, the clutter I place in my priorities list, when I see spare time in the schedule given to me by my Father.
It is my tendency to look at the Divnely appointed task list I am given and think, "Is that all?" and so feel quite justified in embellishing or adding on a little thing here and there until I find that I am no longer running freely, but fettered by chains of my own making. Once I am so heavily laden that my race has become more of a plod or a sluggish crawl, He will step in and remind me that I am only responsible for the things He has given me to do. Even if that means saying "no" to other people, it is not to them that I must ultimately answer, but to Him. And when He provides room for rest, it is not helpful for me to fill it with activity. In fact, this is where doing good things crosses the line to sinful, for that space in my agenda was given to me, not for my own selfish purposes, but for me to spend with my Lord; listening, learning, soaking in His presence. It is His space I am filling, and in doing so I am crowding Him out of my schedule when He desires me to sit at His feet and listen for a time.
This over-scheduling is an insanity, but one I hope I am finally recognizing and will be able to thwart in the future. For I do find in my times of self-imposed busy-ness, the one thing I miss most is those long and leisurely hours spent with my Father, meditating on His word, listening to His soft voice, or even merely reveling in His great Presence. There is a reason He does not call me to do all the work that needs to be done. It is not all my place to do. It is my place to listen and to obey, to do all the work assigned to me heartily as to Him and not to man, and to remember that He is the goal, the purpose, and the stimulation for the endurance needed to finish this race. By His grace, I will finish it, and I will finish it for Him.
Sometimes, I need that reminder.
Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Psalms 127:1-2