Once upon a time a farmer had a mule that fell down a dried-up well. Seeing the mule’s predicament, the farmer thought, “This old mule isn’t worth the effort to pull him out. I’ll just bury him.” So, the farmer began shoveling dirt down upon the mule. But after every shovel of dirt landed on him, the old mule shook off the dirt and stepped up. He shook it off and stepped up. Shook it off and stepped up – until the well was completely full and the mule was standing free on top of it. So, remember: When you’re in a hole and crud is raining down on you, just shake it off and step up.
That’s a good way to endure a short-term crisis. But what if you’re too tired to keep shaking crud off and stepping up? We’re six months into this pandemic and there’s still no end in sight.
Proper self-care can and does increase your energy. But what do you do when all the self-care in the world still leaves you exhausted and struggling?
Well, once upon a time – there was another soul at the bottom of a well, and that soul was Charleton Heston. He was in the middle of making the 1959 movie Ben Hur, and he just couldn’t shake it off and step up anymore. The nine month long shoot was grueling and the finale, the chariot race, was even tougher. So, Heston went to his Director William Wyler and confessed that he had had it. Heston felt he wasn’t in top form; that he was letting Wyler down; and that nothing was coming together as it should. The old director patiently listened as the young actor poured out his heart, and then Wyler simply said, “My boy, everything is gonna be alright. Just stay in the chariot. I guarantee you’re gonna win the race.”
Now, those are two stories about hope. The first story is about adversaries. The second story, though, is about friends. Heston could count on Wyler’s help. Heston had forgotten that – and we forget that, too, so often when it comes to God.
The good news is that Jesus Christ is risen today. The One who is Love is alive and here right now to complete the good work that God began in you. That’s why hope doesn’t disappoint us. Our hope isn’t based on our own efforts. Our hope doesn’t come from us. Our hope – our salvation – comes from God.
You and me and all of creation is being reworked and redeemed until everyone and everything is as God intended it to be. I am confident, Paul says, that the One who began a good work in you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ – on that day when God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Yes, sin weighs us down and this pandemic stinks and so much more is just not right. But God is at work making it right. Like Heston, we have a part to play as moral actors in the grand drama of the redemption of the world, but God is the One who is directing that drama to its completion. Like Wyler, God has also promised us that in the end we, too, shall win.
We’re like amateur basketball players, who aren’t all that much, but who have Michael Jordan on our side. All we have to do is stay in the game and do the best we can, trusting that God is going to be who God is supposed to be and that God is going to do what God is supposed to do.
The German martyr Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who opposed Hitler and was executed by the Gestapo in the last days of World War II, famously, rightly said, “All we can do is believe in God’s word, rely on God’s promise, and walk in the good works which God has prepared for us.”
To do that is to have Hope; to live in Hope; and to belong to Hope, which no darkness can destroy. Easter means that God cannot be stopped. To belong to God is to welcome Easter’s glad, unstoppable light to shine through you. And when that light is within you, nothing around you – nothing – is going to stop God or you or any of us. Practice living in that light. Extend through your life the Light and Blessing of Easter to all. Lose yourself in the “hopeless, foolish” ways of Christ, which are forgiveness, generosity, and love, and you will find yourself established in the hopeful life that is without end.
This pandemic will end. God will not. You will not. Christ’s transforming, redeeming work in you shall be completed. You shall be saved. You are being saved. Along with all of creation. Trust that grace; welcome that redemption; and live that hope.