In the gospel of Matthew when the mother of the sons of Zebedee asks that Jesus “declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” (Matthew 20:21)
Jesus asks the sons, “Can you drink the cup that I am about to drink?”
This week in my studies, I have been reading from Henri Nouwen and he reflects extensively on this question. For the first time it is the verb that caught my attention. “Can you?” This is a question about ability. The Greek term translated “can” is about ability. Are you able?
This is not a question of desire or worth. Many interpretations pursue one of these two things, as though Jesus asked, “Do you want to drink?” Or “Are you worthy of drinking?” But Jesus isn’t asking either of these questions. Jesus wants to know if they are able to do this.
To be capable requires three things. First, there is a question of our capacity to do something. Is it physically and psychologically possible? Second is the issue of readiness. Are we prepared to do this? Have we put in the hours, put in the effort to train for this moment? Which finally brings us to the last point. The ability to do something also relies on having the energy and stamina to do it.
For me, the most important challenge we are facing in answering Christ’s question has to do with this last piece. We know the task before us, and it feels Herculean at times. We are called to fully live into our mission and vocations God has given us. We have just as much passion as ever to pursue these endeavors, still having the same desire to follow where the Spirit leads. We also have the skills and gifts necessary to do this work. We have earned the necessary degrees or are working on more degrees to further our education. We have put in long hours to become who we are in our various vocations and continue to keep our skills honed with extensive continued professional and personal development.
But can we do it? In the moment when we are needed most will we have the ability? We have the drive, we have the passion, we have the preparation, we have the expertise. We have all the tools necessary to complete the tasks before us.
But, do we have the energy and stamina? All the training in the world cannot correct an exhausted body. No matter how many classes you have taken and how many degrees you have and how many hours of continuing education you have completed, none of this matters if your mind is exhausted.
My mantra this year for those under my pastoral care is “self-care, self-care, self-care.” I will ask you the same questions I have asked them this week: How are you doing? Are you overwhelmed? Are you exhausted? I imagine so. We hope to be most of the way through this pandemic but the reality is that we might have only completed half of this necessary journey together.
Friends, this is a good time to check in. Are you keeping your Sabbath rest? Are you keeping holy and sacred the time that you have available for rest? All of our schedules are overbooked, which means that we must embrace any opportunities to step away and to slow down. You cannot drink from the cup if you don’t even have the energy to bring yourself to the table.
Take care of yourselves friends. And take care of one another. This is a good time to check in on each other. Ask your friend how she’s doing. Ask a colleague how his classes are going. And this time, take the time to really listen to the answer and ask more questions. And then ask the question, “How is your free time? Are you taking advantage of it?”
We are terrible at taking care of ourselves and we need each other to hold us accountable and invested in restoration and re-creation. My prayer is that this weekend and in the year ahead, you take the time to step aside and step outside. Find the quiet spaces that will bring refreshment to you and your souls. When you need a break, don’t be afraid to ask your friends and colleagues to help. Moreover, when you see a friend who is stretched, encourage them to take a break and ask how you might help. We will only be able to drink the cup God offers to us, to answer our calling in the work we strive to do here together, if we mind our physical, mental, and spiritual health.
With Love, Peace, and Prayers,