The Christian walk is long. It has high highs, terribly low lows, and blissful moments of calm in between. In some ways, walking with Christ is like running a marathon. There are miles where we feel energized, capable. Then there are miles where we feel like we simply will not make it. There are turns that are picturesque, scenery that is breathtaking, and turns into poor, even dangerous parts of town. But what I have found in common in all races is the support along the path. Thousands of people come out with signs of encouragement, light hearted and silly. Some offer donuts (they are my personal favorite spectators), and others cheer you on, reminding you to keep going.
The run toward Jesus is no different. In this sometimes arduous and other times wonderful walk, he gives us exactly what we need along the way. The reading from Leviticus today could be seen as our training plan, some rules to follow to finish strong. He instructs us not to steal, lie, or swear falsely against the Lord’s name, not to spread slander against our kin. He says we shall not take revenge or bear hatred against another and that we shall love our neighbor as ourselves.
Jesus is pointing out the traps that will make us stumble. He is showing us the steep hills that put Him farther out of sight. How many times have we said “I swear to God…I did this or I didn’t do that?” Have we spread slander against our kin under the guise of “venting” about a particular person in our lives? Are we holding on to past hurts, bearing hatred, (even if we wouldn’t call it that) thereby creating division in our families? Do we love our neighbor, the one with the barking dog or newspapers piled high? Just like cheering on a slowing runner next to us, who in our lives could use cheering on now? Who is struggling with their personal hill? Maybe this Lent, we can all strive to find the less obvious ways we are being untruthful, or spreading slander, we can look for those who are suffering in silence, wanting no one to see? Which relationship in our life needs repair?
Armed with our map of the stumbling blocks we may face, the Gospel today goes on to tell us what we can actively do to draw us into His embrace. Like a spectator clapping on the side of the road, we can be the source of sustenance and encouragement for someone else. “ For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me.” During these next 40 days, is there a new mom that we can bring a meal? Is there a lonely widower we can take out for Mexican food? Can we put a few extra umbrellas in our car for when we see a family walking in the rain? I never cease to be amazed at how our God provides for us during difficult seasons. How can we return this kindness in the coming weeks? He is not asking any of us to run any race alone. He is lining the roads with companions on our journey toward Him.
Whether you are like the runner in need of something to keep you going, or one of the dwindling few cheerleaders on mile 25, we can all learn from the scriptures today. We can steer clear of the things that will slow us down and look for ways to love and serve. Doing so will ensure that we sprint across the finish line, right in the arms of Jesus.
–Married to Ross for 4 years, Keri is a social worker turned stay at home mom to Mary Kate, Thomas, and Timothy. Her beautiful family makes her drop to her knees hourly!