This spring, I studied the book of Mark with a small group of ladies from my church. Each Sunday evening, we met on Zoom to dissect a couple chapters of the book and ask each other what stood out to us from the text, what it taught us about Jesus and people, and what God might be saying to us through the passage we read. A few weeks ago we read some verses that left me flustered.
In Mark 13, Jesus tells His disciples that they must stay alert for His return. He cautions them to pay attention and be on guard to be prepared for the end times. In the English Standard Version (ESV), He tells them to “stay awake.”
My friends and I talked about a few other parts of the passage we’d read, but mostly we focused on this passage. Jill said she felt like God was telling her to wake up and Sarah said Jesus’s words made her want to be more intentional about, well, a lot of things. I stared at them both for a moment and then blurted, “I didn’t even remember that whole section about the end times being in this book!”
I knew that I had indeed read that passage, so how, then, did I not remember it?! Why was I so surprised to find this topic in the gospels?!
After talking with my friends I realized that I must have read that whole chapter on autopilot. It was part of a Lent reading challenge I’d joined, and the day that included Mark 13 clearly found me opening my Bible in order to check a box on my to-do list rather than to meet God and listen to whatever truth He might have for me in those holy words. Just like I can sometimes pull into my driveway and realize I don’t remember the miles I drove to get there, reading the Bible on autopilot means part of my brain computed the words on the page but my heart didn’t absorb or process a thing.
As we talked more about the ways we find ourselves sleepwalking through life, I realized that I had been in a bit of a walking coma for a few months now — not just while reading my Bible but also with my work, my relationships, and several healthy habits I know are necessary for me. And now, it was time to wake up!
On the one hand, I was energized by this conversation. After all, isn’t this what spring is for? To wake up from our hibernation and allow the things God has been doing underground to blossom into something beautiful and life-giving? To get back to the work we’re designed for, to do more than the bare minimum at least some of the time? To shake off the heaviness and self-protection of the past season and reach for the sun (or the Son, if we want to extend this metaphor a bit)?
It is, absolutely. But, on the other hand, I also felt a bit disoriented — the way you do when you take a nap and stay asleep too long, the way you do when you wake up in the wrong part of your REM cycle, the way grumpy cartoon bears do when awoken too early.
When Jesus spoke to the disciples and urged them to stay awake, to pay attention, to be on guard, He knew the difficulty of what He was asking. Though they hadn’t yet visited the Garden of Gethsemane for the last time, He knew they would be unable to stay awake and be present during His most anguished moments just before the crucifixion. He knew that, like us, they would get distracted from their mission by grief and fear, by responsibilities and obligations, by doubts and distractions, by the everyday-ness of life.
And yet, He urged them to wake up just the same.
That tells me that Jesus understands my current state of in-between, that He is familiar with the pull of slumber and numbness, that He recognizes the disorientation of the waking process, and that He knows the endurance required to stay alert and on guard. But He still wants us awake and alert — to our lives, to those around us, to the work He’s doing in our hearts and in the world.
Reading about Jesus’s conversation with the disciples (again, ironically paying more attention this time) has both encouraged and challenged me, and I’m asking Him to wake me up. And though my eyes are still a little blurry and my limbs are hibernation-heavy, it’s working — slowly. I’m waking up little by little. I’m paying attention to what God is doing in the world and in my own heart. I’m staying alert for beauty and joy, for injustice and pain, for all the places I can find God and join the work He’s doing.
Perhaps He’s asking you to wake up, too.
Have you found yourself hibernating lately — in shock as you experience circumstances and chaos you never imagined, out of exhaustion or self-preservation, or as a response to pain or loss or confusion? What do you hear when you read Jesus’s words to the disciples: Stay awake! Where do you need to be more intentional? What do you need to pay attention to? Ask Him to help you stay alert, to wake you up to everything He has for you, and together, let’s walk into spring with eyes and hearts open!
My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands.
Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding.
Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding.
Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures.
Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God.
Proverbs 2:1-5 (NLT)