God has provided plenty of opportunities to go into some complex situations in order to participate in His redemptive mission. I've had the opportunity to minister to hundreds of high risk youth in Homewood. I've had the great privilege of leading entire families to Christ, and I've endured the heart break of violence in the streets impacting people close to me. I've been able to teach and train leaders in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. God opened the door to plant a multi-ethnic urban church with many passionate followers of Jesus Christ. Yet, there have been many challenges in serving as a pastor that I did not anticipate. It's a good calling, but it's a difficult calling sometimes. I've grown weary at times over the years.
Just this past week, a young man that I've been mentoring for years was shot and I walked with him through a traumatic event in his life. A close friend is fighting cancer, and it's been a challenge to go through all of the ups and downs with him as he digs deep to find the strength to engage in the battle each day. There have been many leadership responsibilities. Marriage and parenting are both adventures with great days and challenging days. I've grown weary at times.
It's okay to grow weary. This life is not meant to be lived comfortably. It comes with tremendous moments of joy, and it also comes with suffering. I am thankful for the challenging calling that God has given me, and sometimes I am overwhelmed by the calling. When I'm feeling weary and overwhelmed, it becomes increasingly important for me to orient myself in God's Story. I can persevere because I'll never have it as bad as Jesus had it. Jesus overcame death on a cross and He serves as the vine which provides all of the strength that I need to endure in this life.
I love Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of Hebrews 12:1-3 in The Message: Do you see what this means - all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running - and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed - that exhilarating finish in and with God - he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
Yes, the journey is difficult. I can endure, though, and even thrive, because I am following in Jesus' footsteps. This concept brings me to my knees. I am compelled to worship God in the midst of all of the highs and lows in life. And, one day, I am praying that I will stand before the Lord and receive the crown of life that comes from enduring and running the race well. In the mean time, I could use a shot of God's adrenaline to my soul! How about you? Keep running the race!