For this year’s Lenten Guide, each member of the Council staff chose a verse from a favorite hymn to write about. We will post their reflections throughout Lent, for Ash Wednesday, each Sunday and throughout Holy Week.
When we have run with patience the race,
We shall know the joy of Jesus.
“I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light” ~ United Methodist Hymnal #206
Today, Ash Wednesday, the entire Lenten journey is ahead of us. We are standing at the starting line for this particular race, this particular test of endurance- the journey to the cross and ultimately the resurrection. Today we face our mortality in the ashes. We repent, recognizing our complicity in the systemic evil of the world and our complacency in every day moments of busyness and self-centeredness. We long for our current trials, the disparaging political climate, the personal and family struggles, the racism, the exhaustion, the division to come to an end. We long for the “joy of Jesus,” the light at the end of the tunnel, the finish line.
As much as we might want to, we cannot skip to the end. We have 40 days to go.
We have to run the race with patience. A marathon is completed one step at a time. Looking at a race in its entirety from the starting line can be overwhelming. When I ran cross country we occasionally ran hill repeats; I would get tired and want to give up (standing at the bottom of a hill that looked like a mountain, a world of distance between my feet and the peak), and my coach would say, “Don’t look at the top of the hill, look straight ahead!” One step at a time is the only way to get up that hill. We do not forget the vision, the goal, the joy of the finish line, but we must focus on the next step.
This is true in a variety of races: journeying toward health, working for justice, and making our way through Lent. Just as runners must care for their minds, bodies, and spirits thoughtfully and holistically to finish their race, so too must we. We are in the phase of patient running, one foot in front of the other. With resolute commitment urging us on and the hope of the joy of Jesus on the distant horizon, we can run with patience the race.
Throughout this Lenten season, may we embrace simplicity in a complicated and overwhelming word. Let us remember that we make the journey toward justice, peace, and ultimate resurrection one step at a time. We have a long journey ahead, but we will make it step by step as we follow a God of patience and joy.