Sunday, April 1, 2018

For The Joy Set Before Him

I maintain a commitment to regular exercise: six days a week, every week.  This commitment started over 30 years ago when I wanted to reclaim my body after our second son was born; it grew stronger as I began to appreciate the broader benefits of exercise—increased energy, positive mood, deeper and more efficient sleep, and a boosted immune system.  But even with this history, it is more common than not that when I get up in the morning, I don’t feel like exercising.  I am tired, and I would prefer to sit at my computer with a cat in my lap and check the morning news.  And, sometimes I do.  But then, invariably, I put my running shoes on and get the dog ready for a jog, or I get the kettle bells out of the closet.  I still don’t feel like exercising.  My choice to do it anyway doesn’t deny my feelings; rather, it represents my understanding that exercise is the most effective way to resolve my feelings of fatigue and lethargy.
As we move from the season of Lent through Good Friday, and into Easter, it is a good time to consider Jesus.  His prayer to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane reveals that He didn’t feel like going to the cross.  Those feelings were far from unreasonable: bearing the sins of the whole world for all time, compounded by the tortured death of crucifixion, was not something anyone would feel like doing.  But Jesus went beyond His emotions and made a determined choice to go to the cross for the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2).  He wanted a reconciled and restored relationship with us so truly and so deeply that He accepted the emotional and physical agony necessary to get there.
So what do we do with this?  First and foremost, the Easter season is an ideal opportunity to meditate on and praise God for His sacrifice for us.  We can thank Jesus for moving beyond His feelings and making the choice to die for us.  We can gratefully marvel that God loves and values us so much that He sent His son to die to restore our relationship with Him.  As we internalize this glorious truth, we, too, can follow Jesus as our Savior, Lord, and Model.  We, too, can choose to accept sacrifice as we are called to participate in God’s work of redemption, of calling people to Himself.  Is my daily choice to exercise equivalent to Christ’s emotional agony?  Of course not.  But it is a most helpful reminder to not take Jesus’s choice for granted, but rather to walk in grateful wonder before Him.