Spring of 2022 is almost upon us and for me personally, it can’t come fast enough.
The backstory is an interesting analogy for the church as we reach the two-year mark of dealing with a ravaging pandemic. Almost a decade ago, I was looking for a way to get into better physical shape. I was overweight, didn’t sleep well, and was a disaster on two feet. My doctor at the time was kind enough with his words, but that didn’t change the fact that some personal habits would have to shift if I wanted to continue enjoying good health.
Along with some friends, my wife and I briefly toyed with biking, but for several reasons that exercise habit didn’t seem to stick. Eventually we settled on running, even though I’m built about as much like a runner as a sumo wrestler. Running was inexpensive (just the shoes), easy to access (you can start virtually anywhere), and didn’t take much coordination like biking or other sports (simply move forward and try not to fall down).
Without going into much detail, I ran my first full marathon about ten years ago. I had trained — or so I thought — prepared myself mentally, and was excited about driving to a small town in Arkansas to run my first 26.2 mile race. I made it to the finish line, but barely. I hadn’t hydrated well enough and the long winding hills through the Arkansas terrain was more than my body could realistically do. By the time the race was over — and for a few days after — we had very real thoughts that I might need professional medical attention.
But, wow. I was proud I finished that race!
Fast forward several more marathons and a decade later, and some friends and I are again preparing for the next big race. This time is different. We all have more children and responsibilities. Our schedules are tighter. The weather has been cold and icy, which is not conducive to running at all.
I can’t help but notice the parallels to reaching people for the gospel over the last two years. A virus continues spreading. There are heated discussion over online versus in-person worship. And if nothing else, the constant change and wondering how to minister during this time causes a constant battle for those in ministry (paid and volunteer) to pray that they can hold on past their breaking point.
Just like prepping for a race that is still months away, we know that there is an end in sight. But unlike a specific race day, the end in this case is hard to pinpoint on a calendar. We have no idea exactly how to train and run, so to speak, because we can’t tell exactly when all of this will be officially “over.”
Yet our ministries are more essential now than they have ever been. The compassion and kindness of the church is more needed than anything we’ve seen in any of our lifetimes.
The church is needed — essential if you will — even if we don’t know exactly what that looks like, even two years in. We don’t know exactly how to train and we don’t know exactly when the race is going to start or finish.
We feel dehydrated and hungry but know that we must keep putting one foot in front of the other. The proverbial spring is almost here and the race will be won before we know it. May we continue the discipline of fighting the good fight until the race is over; we will be so proud we finished the race!
Christopher Dixon is chief operating officer of eLectio Publishing (electiopublishing.com) and pastor of West Finley Baptist Church near Fordland, Mo. He is also a Word&Way trustee.