The Sisyphean Task

Growing up in Clanton, Alabama I used to play a lot of tennis with my boys. We thought we were better than we really were. One of my friends used to dip while we played taking occasional timeouts to spit through the fence if that is any indication not only of our skill but also our etiquette. For what it is worth at our mediocre level of play, we did play some epic sets against one another. My boy, Dino, ended up being my partner much of the time. One thing I remember from our time together as doubles partners was a critique he gave me while we played. Dino told me that I start a set well and I finish a set well, but I am basically nowhere to be found in the middle of the set.

I remember this critique because I feel that it adequately describes something very true about me not just in tennis but in other areas of life. Presently, I am feeling the burn of this critique in seminary. I have run hard and fought hard and I am about halfway there, but right now I feel tired and spent.

Trying to describe this feeling to my wife I thought of the Greek King Sisyphus (Σίσυφος) who was punished after doing what people do in Greek mythology. His punishment was to roll a huge boulder up a steep hill and before he reached the top it would fall to the bottom making him repeat the task for eternity. Right now schools feels like a Sisyphean Task. School assignments and tasks accumulate to form the boulder that is before me as I laboriously push it up the steep mountain already dreading the coming semester when it will start all over again.

This is a bit dramatic, I realize. And to be honest I have loved and cherished seminary so much. At the present moment I have just found myself in the middle of the set trying to muster the courage to continue on. I have to believe the words of Jesus are true, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

I have been laboring a lot in prayer; prayer for strength; for endurance; for remembering why I am here and to what end.  At my desk I keep a picture of a Quechua woman with whom I got to share stories from the Bible. Stories she had never heard before.

It helps to remember. That and Listening to Matisyahu, “One Day”.

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