This week while driving to work, I popped in a CD that I hadn’t listened to in a long time, songs by Mavis Staples, the legendary American rhythm and blues gospel singer and civil rights activist. Mavis has a voice that is earthy and soulful, and on that particular morning, the song “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” got my foot tapping.
I used to listen to that song while I did my running. I don’t know about you, but when I exercise, my human love of comfort makes me want to give up as soon as the sweat sets in. The nagging question invariably comes up, “Why am I doing this again? Why am I not at home napping on the couch?” The answer seems obvious (exercise is good) but I usually have to do some self-talk to keep myself going and not cave in. “Keep your eyes on the prize.” I’m reminded again of that old word “stamina” (see last week’s blog).
Mavis sings the story of Paul and Silas in this song. These two New Testament characters had been thrown in jail for following Christ, but instead of moaning about their troubles, they were singing! They knew what their lives were focused on. Had they had Mavis’ CD back in 35 A.D., no doubt they’d have been singing along.
It’s funny the things we think are good for us. As I write this blog entry, I’m on my balcony, outside in the morning sun on yet another balmy October morning. My present circumstances are good – long weekend ahead, a few days of R & R before I head back to work. If it were up to me to set life’s agenda, I’d choose this easy, breezy existence for each day. Who wouldn’t? I’d never say no to some rest from the daily agenda, but I’m usually the last person who knows what’s good for me. Like that exercise routine, taking the easy road would not hold much benefit for me or the world.
It’s hard to describe what the days at work are like to anyone who isn’t in the world of teaching young children. It’s a rich and rewarding job and I could tell 100 stories each day about the complex and lovely students in my room, but it’ll ask everything of you. Hardly anything ever goes as planned. Someone once said that being flexible in teaching is like trying to change a part on a jet engine while it’s speeding through the sky. Just like exercise when the heart starts pounding, teaching will test your resolve. Expectations of how I think things “should” be must give way to accepting and rolling with how life actually unfolds. What are my eyes focused on?
Teaching asks of me that I hang on to the hope and love that I’ve found in Christ with a singular focus. I’m here to confess to the blogging world that I’m lousy at focus! Sometimes I think I’m given this job just to learn these tough lessons. I’m so quick to lose hope and to think that bumps during the day will do me in. But if this was all I had to write about, this blog would not exist because there’d be no “God in my day”.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about choosing to keep my focus on Christ and the hope I’ve found, and it’s the clearest answer to this question about where God has been lately. It’s not about white-knuckling it and repeating “Calm blue ocean” a million times everyday. It’s more about trust and staying in relationship to Christ. Like Mavis sings in another song, “Jesus is on the main line, you’ve gotta tell him what you need.” So as I drive to work, and other times during the day, I pray for peace of heart. I pray for love to guide me. I pray for patience as I respond to each moment. It all feels like one huge lesson of late. It’s not easy, and often I feel like the battle is lost, but I hang on anyways and keep praying. God has never let me down yet.
I follow another faith blog, and this week she expressed these thoughts exactly. “I don’t want an easy faith, I want a brave faith.”
A brave faith. This is it exactly. I want a faith that stays steady in the storm and that holds onto trust like an anchor amid doubt. Thing is though, it’s
not my faith! If it was, I’d be toast. Somehow, like a huge merciful gift, God has planted this faith in me and I know it is being tended lovingly and constantly. I know this because I see signs of God everywhere in the day. I see signs in the smiles of kindred spirits at work who encourage me. I see signs in the prayers of faith I share with Lyle and my faith community, prayers which keep me going. I see signs in the forgiveness that is shown to me daily. My dear friends see Christ in me rather than my bumbles and lack of faith. I see Christ in the words of scripture which speak to me daily and remind me of the source of hope. I see Christ when I hear “just the words I needed to hear” in a song on the way to work.
God, grant us all not an easy faith, not easy lives, but a brave faith. Help us all keep our eyes on You, our prize.