Nearly every Tuesday, I have “contemplative time” for my classes. Do they actually reach contemplation? Probably not, but I like to provide intentional time for silence and prayer. It is ten minutes where the only thing that is required of them is to be still. In a world overflowing with noise, arguments, ideas, and busyness, I try to offer them a brief respite from the long list of things they must do.
To help direct their prayer, I display a Scripture passage, a quote from a saint, or an excerpt from a spiritual read for the students to use as a starting point. A few weeks ago, near All Saints’ Day, I had them focus on Hebrews 12:1-2 for their time of prayer.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”
I had fifty minutes that day to reflect on these verses. Different portions stood out to me at various points in the day. Yet by the afternoon, one phrase continued to stir my heart. So much so that I wrote it out on a note card and affixed it to my desk organizer so I could continue to ponder it in the days to come.
For the sake of the joy…
Jesus, for the sake of the joy that was before Him, endured the cross. I’m not even certain that I can adequately describe just why that phrase impacted my heart. Partly, it was because I was considering Jesus approaching the cross because of joy. Rarely do I consider great joy being the motivator for Jesus to embrace His cross. Love, mercy, obedience, and sacrificial self-gift: yes. Joy? Not so much.
Joy led Jesus to the cross.
It made me consider: For the sake of the joy will I embrace each daily cross?
Approaching life from the perspective of joy is not the norm for my melancholic self. Too prone to look at the struggles and difficulties, I am quick to acknowledge the ways the world fails to meet my idealistic standards. Obviously, I can’t choose a completely different temperament, but I can try to adjust the way I view situations and attempt to focus more on choosing to see joy.
The ordinary moments of each day provide innumerable times to embrace the cross with joy. I deal with humans all day long, teenage ones to be precise. Between their questions and complaints, their absences and disinterest, their exuberance and drama, I find many means to unite myself to Jesus, if I would but do that.
Sometimes, I do.
Sometimes, in the midst of anger or frustration, I receive the grace to check myself and respond with mercy. Other times, my mouth overflows with the annoyance found in my heart. Instead of patience, I mete out justice as I understand it. At times I am surprised by my calmness and other times I am surprised by my short fuse. What if I followed Jesus and for the sake of joy found the grace to be faithful to the sacrifices asked of me in each present moment?
Or what if I embraced with joy the things in my life that aren’t happening. We are all waiting for things to come. From marriage to children to a new house to reconciliations to finding the dream job to paying off college debt to retirement: if we permit it, so much of life is anticipating the next thing. However, what if we changed that and embraced with joy the present moment, in all that is and isn’t revealed?
For the sake of the joy that is before us and which awaits us in Heaven, let us persevere in running to the Lord, whether He offers us the cross or a seat near His throne.