I woke up this morning to -15 degree temperatures. I suppose we will have a "real" winter this year.
Last night we had a great meal with Parkview's new crop of interns, and I ended up in bed around midnight. Not the usual for my wife and I, but it was well worth it.
Even so, I jumped out of bed at 6am, excited and ready to go. Why?
I had a new workout app to try. Yes, even in the face of the polar vortex I was bound and determined to get some exercise in and (may the heavens rejoice) the app store was more than happy to provide help.
Here's what I know, without a shadow of a doubt: within 2 weeks I won't get up with that same spring in my step. I will lose my excitement and enthusiasm and will hit the snooze button repeatedly instead.
We all like new things, but when new things cease to be new we find ourselves longing to move on.
In the life of following Christ, there are new things around every corner.
New insights into life through the Scriptures.
New places of peace through prayer.
New tears, new hope that comes when we give up our lives for someone else.
Yet to find that new stuff there is a long dedication to ancient paths (see Jeremiah 6:16b). There is, as Eugene Peterson puts it so well, a "long obedience in the same direction." We are called to root ourselves down, become content, and stick with it.
I am not so good at sticking with it.
Diligence, perseverance, or as the ancients called it "long-suffering" is not common currency for us. I am not blasting culture or us in particular, but honestly the stream we swim in every day is not commonly one of contentment and perseverance. Even my exercise app can be upgraded, ignored or deleted and replaced if I choose.
"Everything" is disposable.
"Everything" is interchangeable.
Yet our hearts and souls so desperately need the changeless. The God who does not move like shifting shadows (James 1:17) calls us to stop shifting. To become quiet. To fall into lockstep with Him.
In his book An Unhurried Life Alan Fadling tells a wonderful story about author Ronald Boyd-McMillan meeting Wang Mingdao, one of China's most famous pastors of the last century. Mingdao asked Boyd-McMillan, "Young man, how do you walk with God?" Ronald listed off disciplines such as Bible study and prayer, to which Mingdao only chuckled:
"Wrong answer. To walk with God you must go at a walking pace." (14)
To stick with it, to persevere, is to go at a walking pace with God. To avoid forcing things by running ahead, to avoid losing direction by falling behind, and to match footfalls with God by persevering with the work and worship that comes through following Jesus in the pathways of formation into Christlikeness.
I pray today that you may stick with it - that you may persevere in whatever path God has you on, so that you may have the character and hope that comes with long-suffering.