How do you feel about endurance? How do you feel about enduring something? If you are like most people, endurance is not usually a welcome entity in your life. And yet, one might argue, that endurance is very common ground to living.
During the Season of Advent, we at FBC Columbus are going to come together in worship around the theme “It’s a Wonderful Life”. This, of course, is the title of Frank Capra’s 1947 film that featured Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed and their life in the fictional town of Bedford Falls. Stewart’s character, George Bailey, has to endure many twists and turns that take him away from his big dreams and goals for life. The untimely death of his father, and his own sense of loyalty and service, land him in a position as the executive officer of the struggling Building and Loan. It’s a life he can’t seem to extricate himself from, and over the course of the film we see how he often resents it.But, as is so often true, in Hollywood and real life, as we endure life’s struggles and challenges, we grow. When we overlay such experiences with the perspective of Christ following faith, we can see that enduring often deepens that faith. It gives us the experience of trusting God through the challenge, struggle or suffering. We are able to see how Imanuel truly is God with us – helping us endure.
When I was in high school I participated on the cross country team. But long distance running was never something I enjoyed. I endured it, but never truly became an endurance runner. While other runners would talk about “hitting the wall” and then getting a second wind to continue on; I knew what it was to hit the wall, but I never found that second wind. The truth is I was just running cross country to stay in some semblance of shape for basketball season. I plodded along, resenting nearly every step along the way, counting the days until the season was over.
A few years ago I took up cycling and have come to appreciate the role endurance plays in a long distance ride. In my experience one has to build up to a 35+ mile ride by spending time in the saddle, getting your legs in condition, and knowing how to hydrate your body appropriately. In cycling, like endurance running, there is also a wall you hit – coming at different intervals for different athletes. I’ve come to know what that feels like. However, I’ve also experienced the reality of working past the wall into that second wind. When I’ve been able to do that, the back half of that ride feels different and even more rewarding than the front half did. I think that’s the perspective of endurance.
We live in a time and space that wants everything to happen immediately. We’re not too good at waiting in our culture today. In some ways this has caused problems: excessive debt from borrowing now and paying later, over dependence and addiction to pain medications, impatience with persons with whom we have differences – leading us to walk away rather than work toward reconciliation. We often avoid situations that involve enduring, sometimes to our own detriment.
Advent reminds us that God’s time is not our time. As we wait for the celebration of Jesus’ birth, and the return of Christ, we are living in God’s time. As we follow Christ we should remember that we are also living in God’s time. But we are not living there alone – God is with us. Let us consider this and the contributions endurance brings to faith during this Advent season.