“…who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame…”a portion of Hebrews 12:2
What are you willing to endure? As an Enneagram type 7, I can relate to doing something “for the joy that was set before.” As an “Enthusiast”, my motivation often (if not always) arises from the question of the future. That duplicitous question of “what will happen next?” has always been the fire beneath my greatest passions and the culprit of my deepest anxieties. When acting on instinct alone, I will always choose the path of easy, satisfying, and FUN.
The first time I ever read the first two verses that introduce Hebrews 12, they screamed to me in earth-shattering tones that I was living my life wrong. They told me that my simple, black-and-white, Anna-pleasing world was built on a bed of lies. I wasn’t free or happy — I was enslaved in sin!
A true life of freedom was up for grabs, if only I was willing to lay everything down.
As I looked back at my life and mentally began to remove each little pleasure that I was currently occupied with, I saw my life begin to unravel. Up until that point, my only real pursuit in life had been fleeting moments of gratification: a smile of approval from a loved one, a delicious cupcake, a snarky one-liner from a fictional character that I identified with. I had spent years trying to escape into fictional worlds, falling in love with its characters and dreaming of an adventure-filled life. I found my passion in making myself and others happy. When the present left something to be desired, I could easily seduce myself with dreams of the future.
“It will come sometime. Some beautiful morning she will just wake up and find it is Tomorrow. Not Today but Tomorrow. And then things will happen … wonderful things.”L.M. Montgomery, “Anne of the Island”
Looking back, I see that I have always been made to WORSHIP, and the greatest misdirection of my life was in worshipping anything but Him who made me for that purpose. In my heart, I have always known that those “less-wild lovers”, as John Eldredge and Brent Curtis describe them in their book The Sacred Romance, will never be enough to satisfy. Brent continues to explain: “Because the gratification touches us in that heart-place made for transcendent communion, without itself being transcendent, it attaches itself to our desire with chains that render us captive.”
Captive. Sound familiar? In the context of Hebrews, the author encourages us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us.” Staring at this verse and letting its truth sink in for the very first time, I became shamefully aware of my chains and caught a glimpse of freedom. I wondered if it was truly within my reach. If I hit the brakes on my rabid “pursuit of happiness,” what would be left worth pursuing? Without those “lovers” that had distracted me for so long, could life be sustained?
At this point in the verses, another character is introduced: Jesus. He started everything and now He is coming to finish it once and for all. Talk about passioned and driven! And He is chasing after JOY. “For the joy set before Him,” he endured. Words escape me when I consider His sacrifice.
Where did His death-defying, shame-despising, all-consuming joy come from? We find the answer in the words of an ancient song. “In your presence there is fullness of joy // at your right hand are pleasures forevermore,” sings King David. You see, Jesus is no longer enduring the cross. He is seated in God’s presence in the throne room of Heaven, at the greatest never-ending worship circle, where that great cloud of witnesses sing, “Holy! Holy! Holy!”
One day we’ll all be there. All this life on earth can offer us are glimpses of heaven, of that joy in His presence. As long as our fragile bodies cling to life, we are called to risk it all so that others can catch glimpses of that joy too.
With this joy in sight, endurance becomes possible. And we are not alone.
Your glory is so beautiful
I fall onto my knees in awe
And the heartbeat of my life
Is to worship in your light
Your glory is SO beautiful!All Sons & Daughters, “Your Glory” (2011)