Three to four months ago, we thought the challenge and crisis we are facing would soon end. ‘This too will pass’, was the advice many of us had to give to others and even remind ourselves. Even during fear and internal challenges, we looked forward to a near future, when things would normalise. As days go on, and as we continue in this season of uncertainty, it is becoming clear that this season is not going to end soon. Not only may it not end soon but also there may not be a post covid-19 context, rather more of a living with an ongoing covid-19 pandemic!
In an article written by Andy Crouch, Kurt Keilhacker, and Dave Blanchard in March, it was shared, ‘this is a time to urgently redesign our work in light of what we believe is not just a weeks-long “blizzard,” not even just a months-long “winter,” but something closer to the beginning of a 12–18 month “ice age” in which many assumptions and approaches must change for good.’ This seems to be true for most of us today, a long winter or ice age.
But the challenge is that very few of us are prepared to lead self and/or others through such a long period of uncertainty and crisis! If you look around at leaders across the globe, there are varied responses. Some are like ostriches, oblivious to the challenges, using the challenged context to live lives that they always wanted – not relevant to the context, but lives they wanted to live and enjoy! They are using the context for their own personal gains, and petty self-promotional or self-appeasing goals. There are others who have been overwhelmed by fear, panic, lack of clarity and have given up or are living ineffective lives – drifting along with the flow, hoping that one day the flow will end and they can swim to the shore. Then there are a few who are living and leading self and others with a clarity of thought and tenacity.
What helps people live lives of tenacity amid such ongoing crises and uncertainty?
In the Bible, there is the picture of Jesus, setting his face towards Jerusalem and walking towards it. The disciples followed him, and they were afraid (Mark 10.32). For Jesus, it was towards the end of almost a year or more of increasing opposition. He knew when he started on that journey that he was approaching the end of his life’s journey as he had experienced it thus far. John Piper says, ‘When Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem, he set his face to die. Remember when you think of Jesus’ resolution to die that he had a nature like ours. He shrunk back from pain like we do. He would have enjoyed marriage and children and grandchildren and a long life and esteem in the community.’
Four things stand out as we follow Jesus in the journey over the next few days of his life.
The clarity of the overarching purpose. He was clear what he had come for and that clarity of purpose gave him the ability to face the long drawn out opposition, and the few days ahead. He was sure that the turnaround was ahead of him and would be reached through some difficult days. But he was clear that this was the purpose for which he had come!
The caring for his followers. In the next two days, and prior to that, we find him spending more and more time with his friends and followers, encouraging and supporting them. Though he was troubled and challenged, he intentionally spent time encouraging and challenging his friends to hold on. In John 13 it says , ‘Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come that he should depart from this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.’ With that deep sense of love, undergirded by his clarity of who he was and what the purpose of his life was, he washes the feet of his disciples including the one who would betray him.
The openness and vulnerability. In the garden of Gethsemane, he would invite his close friends to accompany him. A place where he would pour out his internal struggles and pain to his father. But that aspect of his life was open for his close friends to see and understand. He requested them to be awake and pray as a support!
His submission. The next few days we see a calm and composed master walking the path set before him, completely submitting the context, the challenges, and the future into the sovereign hands of his father.
A model for us to reflect. Our tenacity must come from our clarity of purpose. That clarity of purpose and surety of our identity should enable us to care for others, though we ourselves need care. But we need to live and model a life of vulnerability, openness and prayer. Prayer being pouring our confusions to God our father. And such an engagement with God and friends leading to submission and confidence, confidence in the overarching purposes of a sovereign God!
May God enable us to live such lives of tenacity in this challenged confusing long winter!
Santhosh Mathew is ICMDA Regional Secretary for South Asia