Recently, my son, Joseph, and I sat down to watch the 80s sports movie classic, Karate Kid.
There’s a scene I had forgotten about, where Daniel LaRusso (aka the Karate Kid) is taught a valuable lesson by Mr. Miyagi, his humorous, wise, and patient instructor.
“Do you remember the lesson about balance?” He asks his student, who nods. “It’s not just a lesson about karate… but also about life.”
As we begin our shift toward the fall in what has turned out to be a world altering and life altering few months, it may feel like we have been spending a lot of energy trying to catch our balance.
Remember when we didn’t need to wear a mask, follow the arrows, and wait outside when shopping for our groceries?
Remember when going out to a restaurant didn’t feel like a nervous expedition into the unknown?
Remember when sending your kids off to school meant getting them on a bus or dropping them off at the front steps?
Remember when gathering as as a family, whether in a time of grief or just for celebration, didn’t mean considering how much hand sanitizer we needed or whether someone needed to stay home due to health issues?
Remember when it was a lot easier to think about gathering in a sanctuary to worship our God?
Yes, we have had to work hard to try to maintain our balance through this most unusual and unexpected time. Our normal routines have required flexibility and creativity. We’ve adjusted as best as we could, even though it has added stress and challenge to our lives.
Add to that the call for our church and others to join movements for black lives, to be in solidarity with those who demand dignity, equal treatment, and justice. This has not been a time to let anyone feel comfortable in any sort of way. We have been prodded forward to make choices over whether or not Jesus’ demand that we “love our neighbors as ourselves” means something.
Balance for Jesus, at least to me, was about tethering himself constantly to the source of his identity and divinity. This is why he went out to the wilderness to pray late into the night and early into the morn. This is why he sometimes walked away from those trying to pick fights with him rather than engage with those who wanted to waste his time and energy. This is why he remained rooted in who he was, even to the cross, uninterested in the temptations of the devil who sought to twist his power for selfish gains. This is also why he could proudly parade into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to confront an empire that oppressed and destroyed.
Jesus was criticized a lot. His enemies lined up like a revolving door to nitpick his teachings and his actions. His disciples could be counted on in one moment and then seemed to shrink away from their call in the next. The crowds pressed in, often not letting him have a quiet moment in peace to catch his breath.
And still, even off-balance at times, he carried on.
So, I think Jesus knows what we are experiencing. Jesus knows some of the sleepless nights we have endured and the anxiety we carry with us. Jesus sees and hears our quietly voiced prayers for transformation and change and is shouting alongside as we call for justice. Jesus knows we have been uncomfortable at times and unsure of what to do next.
Reflect on his words afresh in this moment and find balance in him:
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” - Matthew 11:28-30
— Rev. Nathan Hill