A few weeks ago I had an early morning meeting that required me to get up and leave home way before it was light. As I walked out my front door, I noticed for the first time that not only was the world still shrouded in darkness, but it was also shrouded in fog. This immediately brought back strong memories of the years I lived in California’s Central Valley where heavy fog at certain times of the year was commonplace. And most of those memories were not pleasant.
In fact, most of those memories involved driving, and the primary emotion they evoked was apprehension. My first memory of driving in the fog happened during my first year of college when the college closed down for a “fog day.” In my naiveté, I viewed this as an opportunity to leave early for a planned weekend in Southern California. I soon realized the folly of my decision when I got on the freeway and could hardly see more than a few feet in front of me. Eventually I developed a strategy of getting behind a big semitrailer. I stayed just close enough so I could see its lights. If it slowed down, I slowed down. If it speeded up, I speeded up. If it changed lanes, I changed lanes. Needless to say, my eyes were intensely focused on those lights.
The fog that was present on my way to my early morning meeting was not as thick as that Central Valley fog often was. But it was thick enough that I adopted my strategy of keeping my eyes focused intently on the lights of the car in front of me, my hands tightly gripping the steering wheel. In the midst of my intense focus, a line from one of the songs that was playing on the radio jumped out at me... “fixing our eyes on Jesus.” The connection between the intensity of my focus on that car in front of me and the idea of fixing our eyes on Jesus struck me immediately. That thought was followed almost instantly by a powerful grief that I so rarely focus as intently on Jesus as I was focused on that car in front of me.
Hebrews 12:1-2 tells us that we should run with endurance the race of life before us with our eyes fixed on Jesus, who is the author and perfecter of our faith. The Greek participle that is translated “fixing” (aphorōntes) evokes the idea of directing close attention on one thing without distraction and to the exclusion of anything else. Unfortunately, I am easily distracted. But when driving in the fog, I realized that if I took my eyes off of that car or truck in front of me, I could miss a lane change or a sudden stop. Straining to look beyond that car or to see what was happening on either side of me could result in the failure to notice a key move on the part of what should be the object of my attention. Fixing our eyes on Jesus involves a decision to turn away from all else that might distract us and gazing intently at Jesus alone.
And the reason we are to fix our eyes on Jesus is that he is the author and perfecter (archēgon kai teleiōtēn) of our faith. He is the author of our faith—the pioneer or originator. He is the one who has gone before us and provides the only sure example of how the life of faith is to be lived. And he is the originator of the individual path that each of our lives of faith is intended to follow. In addition, Jesus is the perfecter of our faith—the one who has brought the life of faith to a successful conclusion and makes it possible for us to do the same.
Hebrews 12:2 indicates that this successful conclusion and one of the ultimate goals of the life of faith is to sit down in the presence of God. Jesus has gone before us and was the first to attain that goal. And through Jesus, we too can enter the presence of God. On that foggy morning a few weeks ago, I was just trying to get to my meeting on time and in one piece. That’s why I fixed my eyes on that car in front of me. But during that trip I was challenged to fix my eyes consistently, with the same intensity and focus, on Jesus. Because my ultimate goal is not to get to a meeting; rather it is to arrive safely in the presence of God. Jesus is the only one who knows the safest and best path to that goal. And he will lead me there if I keep my eyes fixed on him.
For more, visit the Good Book Blog, a seminary faculty blog from Talbot School of Theology.