Eugene Peterson has defined Christian discipleship as a “long obedience in the same direction.” It requires a true level of discipline which contrasts with our society’s demand for immediate gratification and constant entertainment. While there are glorious moments of revelation along the way, there are many hours of putting one foot in front of the other. While our society tends to glorify that which is fleeting and shallow – a superficial sparkle that is immediately gone – true discipleship glorifies a loving dedication and commitment which, eventually, leads to deep joy and love.
Being “sheltered” at home with Cindi for the past two weeks has been an interesting experience. We moved her technology home so we are both working out of our home office. Thirty years ago, maybe even twenty years ago, I am not sure this could have worked. We would have been in each other’s way and probably spent a lot of time annoyed with each other. But after forty years of disciplined and faithful marriage, we have come to a place where we are enjoying the time together. Spending this much time around each other has been a real blessing. I’m not saying we don’t get a little “cabin fever.” But we are walking through this time with a love for each other born of many years.
Similarly, we have been sharing some Bible study and devotionals – including previewing together the video lesson for Cindi’s SS class. I have had more time for prayer – especially prayer of listening to God. We have both been aware of how the “rush” of usual life often deprives us of the time we need with Jesus.
There are still moments when I become restless. But I remember the messages from my colleagues of people in their churches who have died from Covid-19 and the people in our own community who are infected. I read the reports of people who are being impacted far more severely than I am – including video reports from our friends in El Salvador. I hear and read about our Bethany family who are stepping up, in appropriate ways, to help provide food and resources for people in our community. And my restlessness is revealed for the shallow impulse it is.
I encourage you to remain safe. Take this time to work on your own “long obedience.” Refocus on your spiritual practices and discipline. Cultivate your love for your family. Reach out in compassion as is appropriate and safe. And remember that your sheltering is actually protection for others.
Let this long obedience of sheltering at home – even if it is enforced on us by the evil of Covid-19 – be redeemed by God for the protection of others, for your own safety, and for the renewal of a different kind of “long obedience”, the long obedience of loving relationships and discipleship.