Prepare, Arrive, Crash!Fr. Barnabas Powell
Christ is risen!
Prepare, prepare, prepare, arrive, crash! All too often this is the pattern of our lives, both physically and spiritually. We are working hard toward a goal, we achieve that goal, and then follows a period of “letdown” as we experience the after-effects of our labors.
To be honest, this is the experience of many in the days and weeks after Pascha. Those who diligently prepare by increased church attendance, fasting, and greater attention to their spiritual lives can go through, what one man described to me recently as, “church withdrawal.”
So, how do we manage the ebb and flow, not only of the Paschal season, but of everyday life? Because the truth is our lives can get caught up in a pattern of focused activity only to fall into despondency after we’ve achieved what we are working toward.
Listen to our Gospel lesson today: “The Lord said to the Jews who came to him: “My Father is working still, and I am working.” This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but also called God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” John 5:17-18
There are three insights into how to avoid allowing “letdown” to derail your life.
First, don’t stop working. Notice how the Lord declared that the Father was continuing to work and He was continuing to work. This flew into the face of the Jewish notion that God stopped working on the Sabbath at creation. But the Jews misunderstood and confused the “starting gate with the finish line.” God hadn’t stopped working. His work transitioned into seeing all creation reclaimed after the sad tragedy of the fall of Adam and Eve. And here God is, still working to reclaim you and me. So, while there certainly are peaks and valleys in our lives, let’s not fall into the trap of believing we are “finished.” There’s more to do!
Second, don’t allow the failings of others to derail you. Our Lord was hated by those who simply didn’t understand what God was doing in His Son to save the world. But this hatred, these misunderstandings, didn’t derail the Lord’s mission. Hatred and misunderstanding is sad and it hurts, but we can never allow these external circumstances to take our eyes off the primary goal of our labors, and that is to be “like Christ.” To be sure, we should always be quick to repent and slow to judge. But the wisdom of the fathers in teaching us to simply not notice the weaknesses of others is the key to avoid the power of “letdown” after hard work to knock us down.
Finally, don’t forget who (and Whose) you are. The Jews rightly understood what the Lord meant when He said He was God’s Son. They were right. He was, and is, equal to the Father. And we, His sons and daughters by grace, are called to “become by grace what He is by nature.” Our identity as Christ’s Body, and “Christians,” has to be foremost in our minds if we are going to avoid the temptation to be derailed by “letdown,” especially after this spiritual marathon of Great Lent and Holy Week.
Today, my dear ones, stop a moment and take inventory of your spiritual practice and your heart. Check to make sure the afterglow of Pascha doesn’t contain the temptation of exhaustion and despondency. Stay awake to the peaks and valleys of your everyday life, and ask God to help you avoid the temptations at either end of the emotional spectrum. Stay free to continue progressing in faith even after the “hoopla” of seasons pass.
Christ is risen! (Still)