“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, 2 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.” – Hebrews 12:1-2
The air is fresh and clean, but a welcoming blanket of humidity greets us today. The thunderstorms that rolled through the area overnight left in their wake an overcast dawn. Outside, the forest before me likewise slowly awakens, reminding me of my home in the holler of the enchanted wood back in North Carolina. Unlike there, the chorus of birds here only before me, not surrounding me as in my wooded home. Here, it is as if a stage is set before me in some grand theater as I sit on the edge of the woods. Birds of all varieties perform their best songs, every one of them a perfect rendition of the voice their creator bestowed upon them. Here and there, in the sings of this great state, domesticated avian crow their morning greetings – the reminder that this performance hall sits amongst a conflicted countryside, torn between the bucolic world it once was to that of the coal mines and growing suburban retreats, each a necessity of the other. A gentle breeze passes by, caressing the hair on my arm, causing my writing to pause and allowing one the momentary respite – acknowledging again God’s refreshing reminder that we are not alone.
Going out each day, seeking those with whom we can share God’s word, should be as purposeful as setting significant goals in our life – those that affect our long-term existence on earth, for we are continually surrounded by, as Hebrews tells us, a great cloud of witnesses. The challenge is to find them that are willing to allow us into their personal space. It isn’t easy to talk to a total stranger regarding breaking through without inciting some sort of defensive barrier. In order to make such a connection, one has to be portrayed as someone that exudes a personality of a loving, compassionate soul. To this end, when we walk in our faith, not promoting self-righteousness, but rather a humble, kind humility, we can then bridge those gaps of suspicion, allowing the stranger to open up and bare their innermost thoughts.
However, it is never easy to walk as Christ, emanating that radiant light from within. There are burdens in our life that are often difficult to overcome – the weight of life that besets us. They become our stumbling blocks, so much so that they become excuses we easily fall back on when the challenge before us causes us to hesitate. This is the enemy’s desire that we should falter in our effort to reach others. Interjecting our love of self, the one that is the very thing we are warned about, we become fearful of tarnishing that self-image. Our pride then overwhelms our purpose, the sin that clings so closely, and we cave into the feeling of either embarrassment or, worse, the belief we are incapable of acting in such an honorable manner. But as Paul writes in Hebrews, we must run this race with endurance. Our work toward perfecting our life’s mission is neither easy nor a sprint. The sanctification is a marathon – lasting the rest of your life. There will be hills and valleys. There will be challenges and setbacks. But through it all, we are to place our eye upon the prize, Christ – the perfecter and finisher of our faith.
Today looks to be a very full day – my plate is full. Yet, even on such busy times as this, we should pray that the Lord gives us the discernment to know when to pause, and drink it all in, allowing us to set this moment in time into one’s collective memory. For someday, it will be that place to which your mind returns, to once more be comforted through God’s grace. Yes, step out into the forest, and welcome the song of the woods, for each gentle breeze is a story in life’s journey. Make today one that lasts for that lifetime.
Thanks be to God.