Friday, February 20, 2009

"So Great a Cloud of Witnesses . . . "


Well, I missed my self-imposed deadline of Valentine's Day.  That's when I had planned to have all of my Christmas things packed away.  Think whatever you want about what that probably says about me.  (Yes, I am too busy; yes, I watch too much television; yes, I'm undisciplined; yes, I am a terrible housekeeper; yes . . . oh, heck, just go ahead and pick one or "D.  All of the above.")

Still, it's not all bad, y'know.  How many people eat their Wheaties each morning while nine wisemen, three Marys, three Josephs, three baby Jesuses, and an assortment of cows, sheep and shepherds, and asses stand watch.  (Okay, some of you do eat breakfast with asses, but what about the rest of that illustrious band?  I'll bet you don't see them every day.)  It just happens that my kitchen table is where three of my nativity sets landed (along with my Santa teapot and assorted frosted fruit pieces and a grouping of red, green, and gold looks-like-glass-but's-really-plastic balls).  And I've actually grown to enjoy having them there.  Every time I sit down -- sure, I may feel a bit crowded -- but I can't help but think of Hebrews 12:1:  "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 . . . " (ESV).

Those wisemen.  Those Marys and Josephs.  The infant Jesuses nestled in their mangers.  The Shepherds and their whole barnyard lot.  The whole crew.  I imagine them for a brief moment each morning as my very own cloud of witnesses, cheering me on as I prepare to enter my lane for today's leg of the race.

Pettiness.

Criticism.

Self-centeredness.

Gossip.

Indolence.

Just a few of the links in the chains I sometimes, foolishly, parade around in.  Not very flattering.  Certainly not the uniform of the day for kingdom-class runners.  And that is, after all, what I aspire to be.  With eyes on the prize, I want to fly down the track like my hair's on fire!

Then I remember.  It's not a dash; it's a marathon.  It's not about sprinting between the chalk lines; it's about staying the course.  It's not about speed; it's about endurance. 

" . . . 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.  Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted" (Hebrews 12:1b-3, ESV).

Yep.  Gotta lay aside those chains, lest I grow weary or fainthearted for sure.  And there's too much ground left to cover to stop now.

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