When the walk becomes a slog

It was a year ago on Saturday that the first Covid-19 shutdown occurred.

But it was in China, and most of us weren’t even paying attention. And then, less than two months later, we were all in the thick of it.

Two weeks, we were told. But here in our region of Pennsylvania, at least, that shutdown went on for another three months. Things seemed to improve a bit in late summer and early fall. We could dine indoors at our favorite restaurants, although separated from other dining groups and masked unless we were seated. Church started up again with similar restrictions in masks and social distancing.

Photo by Getúlio Moraes on Unsplash

And then in late November we watched positive cases and deaths skyrocket. Another lockdown was put in place here, one that we emerged from in early January, even though the rise in cases continued. Friends in the UK and Spain have not been so lucky.

But still we know it’s not over.

My dearest friend’s mom died two weeks ago from Covid. Vaccine rollout hasn’t been as smooth or rapid as we had hoped. On top of that we stared in horror at a Capitol overrun by insurrectionists, intent on taking down our government by preventing the peaceful transfer of power.

We’re tired. Tired of masks. Tired of not hugging our friends who grieve. I gave my grieving friend four sideways hugs with masks on and faces turned away. And then she tested positive for Covid. Now I worry that those few moments of offering comfort might come with my own Covid-positive price tag. I count the days, taking note of every twinge, every random (I hope) cough.

I miss speaking for groups, sharing how God has given us a life of purpose and meaning that we are meant to pursue for his Kingdom. How do you pursue your purpose in lockdown? I’m so tired of being told to “pivot” my work, my ministry, my life.

Maybe you are too.

But the Christian life means we offer God a “long obedience in the same direction.”

The quote, surprisingly, comes from atheist Friedrich Nietzsche, who expressed the idea this way: “The essential thing ‘in heaven and earth’ is…that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.”

The Christian life requires long-term commitment. We don’t get to sprint today and declare victory. It’s more like a mud run, a race with obstacles that make it difficult to move forward. And yet we are meant to press on. The “life worth living” comes after we’ve put in the “long obedience.”

And so each day I can get up and, as Hebrews 12 says, “fix my eyes on Jesus” as I “run with perseverance the race marked out” for me. I don’t always do that well. I haven’t done it even mediocrely (Is that a word?) this month.

The race may not look like I thought it would look. It definitely doesn’t look like I wanted it to look. But I still can choose to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me” (Philippians 3:13).

What might that look like?

  • Seeking ways to use my (your!) gifts differently (yes, that’s another way to say “pivot”)
  • Trusting God’s provision for financial needs
  • Looking to encourage that one person God brings to mind
  • Committing to learning something new or something that improves skills we already have
  • Thanking God for this day, without wishing or wasting it away because it’s not the day we wanted
  • Making a commitment to time with a buddy, an accountability partner, or a coach to help move forward through the muck
  • Learning to rest, physically and spiritually
  • But also to move, physically (Covid 15, anyone else?) and spiritually with time daily in God’s word and prayer
  • Finding joy in the little things with eyes and heart open to notice
  • Letting go of yesterday (or last week, or last month, or last year) and starting afresh every morning

God promises us a life of meaning, an “abundant life” (John 10:10). Let’s not let a difficult journey steal it away.

Let’s offer a “long obedience in the same direction.”

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