Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV)
It must be the Puritan still trapped inside of me, but even though I don’t believe in a ferocious taskmaster God who is constantly disappointed in us, whenever I read scriptures like this one, I somehow hear it with all the happy words taken out. It’s like listening to a grumpy version of Henrietta Pussycat from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, “Meow meow meow meow hinders, meow sin that entangles, meow meow perseverance, meow meow cross, meow shame.”
What if instead my inner redactor skimmed over the difficult words and went straight to the promise of joy?
“For the joy set before him,” the author of Hebrews says, Jesus waded through everything else that came with being human, being a prophet and an iconoclast, being a scapegoat. He had his own moments of doubt, fear and terror, but he always ended with his eyes on the prize, the glimmer in the distance.
Beloved: eyes up.
Holy One, we can’t skip the roller coaster that is coming: the pain, the sorrow, the sin, the grief and the unavoidable death that is part and parcel of being human. But neither do we have to linger there. Keep our eyes fixed on the horizon, on the promise of joy that follows every deep night of the soul.