There is a spot on the corner of our couch where I can see the very top of Moscow Mountain peeking over the neighbor’s roof. I love to sit here in the mornings and watching the first light hit the very top of the mountain on a clear day. Last week, with coffee in hand I watched the mountain slowly glowing and read Hebrews 12, a favorite passage:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
I often think I am strong enough to get through a day without sinning, but this is false. I need forgiveness daily. I often forget to foresee all the entanglements I will face each day. I make a list of things I need to do, but do I make a list of all the snares that are waiting for me as I try to do those things? No! Instead of recognizing the snares that so easily entangle me, I often just stumble along through my days carrying around weights of small unnoticed sin, feeling it pull me down, but not always able to realize what is bothering me. Paul says that carrying the weight of sin keeps us from being able to run with perseverance. I see this all the time. I feel tired, I feel like complaining, I feel like crashing into bed at the end of the day and just trying not to think about all the hard moments that I glazed over. But that isn’t perseverance! Perseverance is strong and works hard and looks for opportunity to grow. Perseverance doesn’t mean just stumbling through the day putting one tired foot in front of the other, perseverance means I am ready for the next thing.
Whenever I take my kids to a new place, or when we do something that I know will be hard for them, we have a talk about what is expected of them and what temptations they might struggle with. If we are going out shopping, I remind them how they should act in the store and how they may not act. When we go to church, I remind them to sit still and be quiet and to stay in the designated area after church so I can find them when it is time to go. But I find that I am lazy to do this for myself. I am lazy to look ahead to various situations that I face in order to look out for the snares. Instead what happens is that I often allow temptations to creep up without even noticing, until by the end of the day I am weighed down and entangled.
When I am dressing in the morning, what kind of temptation might I face? Discontent with my mother-of-three body. Envy or covetousness towards women with a more extensive wardrobe selection. When my kids stumbled out of their beds, grumpy and whining, what kind of temptation might I face? Annoyance or laziness because I am not quite awake enough to deal with their sin. When a friend says or does something unkind? What kind of snare might be waiting for me in that situation? When I am paying bills? When I am folding the millionth load of laundry? When I am running late for an appointment because someone can’t find their shoe? When my child disobeys again after I have already corrected them several times? When I have a headache? When the car breaks down?
I need to look at these situations daily and ask myself what temptations I might face during these times: fear, frustration, impatience, taking offense, despair, complaining, loving things or myself more than others. I need to anticipate temptation more and put a hedge of prayer around me. Even fun events, like family holidays, can present a number of temptations that if I am not ready for them will quickly weigh me down with sin. But if I think ahead and look for the temptations I might face, then I am ready to cast the weight onto Christ when it comes. I am ready to persevere like running a race, instead of trudging along with a limp.