The weather forecast for marathon day said localised flooding. When we woke up it was clear that there was nothing localised about it. The rain was heavy the puddles deep and to make things worse it was bitterly cold. The thought of running 26.2 miles did not fill me with great joy and maybe we should have all pulled out and just gone home. But wrapped in rubbish sacks in a weak attempt to say warm we filed to the start line.
Why run on a day like that? Because we could see through the clouds and beyond the weather to a stadium finish. We could see that there was more possible on that day than staying in the warm. There was a different future with a finish line crossed.
Disappointment can so easily creep in and take hold of us, knocking us off the track. As a leader the vision you saw does not work as quickly as you thought, or someone decides to leave the team. The feedback says this dream is not possible or fails to hear the plan at all. As a christian all you have to do is watch telly and you are often confronted with very strong anti Christian thinking. It can leave you cold, and faithless. There will always be things that distract us. Just the normal stuff of life, people dying, being made redundant or someone putting us down with a sharp word.
Jesus was surrounded with people who could have caused him to be overwhelmed with disappointment. In John 11, his friend Lazarus becomes ill and then dies. Throughout the story his friends, the disciples and the crowd give him strong negative feedback.
“If you go there they will kill you”
“Let’s go and die with him”
“If you had been here my brother would not have died”
“Couldn’t Jesus have kept him from dying”
When there are things that could disappoint us, they rarely come alone. Everyone had something negative to say but Jesus had his eyes fixed on something else. He was able to see beyond the clouds of the present to a different future. He was living a different story, one that did not end in death in a eternal sense, but also one that did not end in death in the present.
So was he so full of hope and joy in his alternative story that he was disconnected from the grief of life?
Pretending it was sunny on marathon day would not have helped. We needed to live an alternative story, yes, but one that allowed us to put the rubbish sacks on to keep dry. We acknowledged the wind and rain but decided to run anyway. In it but not overwhelmed. Jesus was not disconnected, he weeps at the grave of his friend, maybe it is grief at losing a friend, maybe for the state of humanity. Jesus is fully present in the story but not overwhelmed, he has a different story to live.
Christian life and leadership has the added dimension of being easily overwhelmed with disappointment and so many just stop running the race. But we have a different story to live. One that has hope in eternity and the present. One that in the midst of pain and tears keeps on running the race. One that is full of hope, even when it rains because we can see through the clouds.