Reading: Hebrews 12:1-13
In the last chapter, we heard about all the great things that our heroes did by faith. We were also reminded that they did these great things without having the same benefits that we have today. This chapters starts with the words: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…” Because of what those in the past have done — this is what we should do.
The writer gives us hints about how to go forward, now that it is our turn by using two very different metaphors. I think it is important to think about both of these, because one thing about metaphors, they are imperfect — if they are followed too strictly, we get things just as wrong as if we ignore them.
The first metaphor is that we are in a race. We are reminded that the people in a race strip away everything that is not necessary to get to the finish line. There is a single, marked, goal — and the whole race looks to the finish line, and nothing else.
The second metaphor is that of children. For children, there is not a single, marked, obvious goal in the way that there is a race. The goal is to learn, and become respectable and productive adults. While there might be rites of passage, the exact moment that a person becomes this adult that is the goal is not clearly marked. Not only is there no clear finish line, but the course of maturity is unmarked. Very often, this is a period of collecting – not putting aside.
Applying these competing metaphors to a situation might have very different results — and this is not a bad thing. What we do know is that both of these metaphors require discipline, and both can be very challenging. So many people talk about the terrible twos — but, we forget, the child is working hard to learn a first language. Things are not at all easy, every day is hard work — and, when mistakes are made, it is often unclear what the mistakes were.
Am I a child, trying to learn and become something more? Am I running a race? Am I both at the same time, or am I one at one moment and another at the other moment? What I do know is whether the course is clearly marked, or if I am about to burst into tears because I cannot understand anything around me — by faith, I must endure.