58. Hiking in Hebrews: The Last Chapter

I’ll never forget descending Mt. Kilimanjaro and taking our final steps into the parking lot, six days after setting off for the summit. After our freezing and oxygen-deprived ascent, we could finally throw off our backpacks and breathe normally. The first thing we did was jump on the scales  to see how much weight we’d lost (an average of five pounds). Then we went in search of coffee and a long, sudsy shower. We were proud of ourselves, even as we vowed to never hike Kili again. That was definitely a hike that looked better from the rear view mirror than from the actual summit, where we were too exhausted to take in the breathtaking vista. 

Guess what? We’re taking the last steps of our virtual hike—58 articles later! I had no idea how long this would last when I began writing. I wanted to be Spirit-led, focusing on the verses I pondered as I memorized Hebrews and hiked my local mountain. If you’ve stuck with me from beginning to end, give yourself an extra big hug from me! Thanks for your excellent company. Let’s change out our sweaty socks and go for coffee!

 I hope you’ve been encouraged by my thoughts and ramblings, but especially by the magnificent epistle we’ve just explored. As is fitting, Hebrews begins and ends with Jesus, and the entire letter is devoted to exalting and praising him for Who he is, and What he’s done.

We still don’t have definitive answers about the book’s authorship. We do know, from this last chapter, that he’s a friend of Timothy, and that he’s writing from Italy. For some scholars, these clues point to Paul, but there are other early church leaders who could have written it. My biggest hesitancy in naming Paul comes from Chapter 2, verse 3: This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. To me, this excludes Paul, since he was among those who DID hear from Jesus directly, and he made a big deal about this to underscore the legitimacy of his apostleship (since it was often questioned), based on the personal interactions he had with Jesus (see Gal.1:13-17). Ultimately, God chose to leave us in the dark about the writer’s identity. We can speculate all we want, but more importantly, our eyes and hearts should be fixed on the subject of this fine letter, not on the one who penned it.

For our final thoughts, let’s focus on these verses:  

Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.

May the God of peace, who through the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Heb.13:18-21)

What a profound benediction!

Pray for us. I covet the prayers of others, especially the prayers of faithful Christians. I believe my grandparents’ prayers for my salvation, which I suspect began at my birth, were vital to my being lead to Christ while bicycling around the USA  in 1980—a strange and funny story I relate in my first memoir, PARADISE ROAD.* And I also believe that the prayers of many faithful disciples kept Henry and me afloat during some of the roughest years of our lives. I am eternally indebted to those friends and prayer warriors. And challenged, in my own prayer life, to remember to pray for others, especially those who have ‘gone silent’ for a while. We may never know the depths of others’ struggles, but God knows every tear, disappointment, and nuance, and He will tailor our non-specific prayers to that end.

I also confess my prayer life has been lagging during these recent months of the pandemic, and I make no excuses. I have been given more open time, but have not multiplied that time by devoting it to prayer.

Because of this, I can’t really say, We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. But a stronger prayer life could remedy this quickly.

The following verses are a great comfort in this regard. The Hebrew writer prays for his listeners, that God will equip {them} with everything good for doing His will, and work what is pleasing in {them}.

I feel ill-equipped and confused these days, not knowing how to do God’s will when we are so restricted in our social engagement. Here in BC, we are limited to hanging out only with the people we live with. No more six-person bubbles, no small house churches, no meeting with friends for coffee, no visiting even our own family members. My household consists of me, my husband, and three lively cats. Thank goodness for the cats (and my husband). At least they give us something to talk about besides the news and our current projects.

My work relationships are limited to the few clients I have who are home when I come over to clean. Right now that’s five people I might see once every week or two, and even then, we keep our distance and don’t socialize beyond a few minutes of catch-up. This is by far the smallest social circle—if you can even call it that—I’ve had since infancy. I never imagined my life could shrink this much—and I worry it’ll stay small. Even after the pandemic ends, I wonder if I’ll be able to break the spell and be a genuine friend, if I can rediscover my former fire to reach out and make new friends. If I can love and feel as deeply as I did in the past. As I approach senior-hood, making new friends and starting afresh seems harder. Even getting out of the house seems harder after months of semi-isolation. Can you relate?

I hope I can break the spell.  Satan wants me to doubt, but this passage brings hope: God provides both the ‘equipment’ and the inner transformation that makes possible a life of love and service.

Our God is the God of peace. May He bring peace to my troubled heart and to yours, in whatever corner peace has been robbed. He is Father to the great Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who leads us with infinite wisdom and gentleness.  Together, may we bring glory to Jesus, forever and ever, Amen.

Thank you again for joining my hike. If you’re jumping in late, please check out my earlier posts. There’s no deadline and you can take your time. Please add your comments to those already posted—you cannot imagine how much even the simplest comments encourage me! And please share this series with anyone who might enjoy my humble ramblings and insights.

Many seasons have passed as I’ve written these articles, and my actual mountain has been spring-green, dust-baked, crunchy-leaf-brown, and snow-covered as we’ve circled twice around the sun. I hope your hiking legs are strong and your spirit refreshed, even as we wait for vaccines and a new lease on life. I pray you’ll be safe and well, wherever you are.

It’s hard to say goodbye to Hebrews, but I’ll keep posting to my blog. Please keep visiting.

May God richly bless us as we seek to know Him better.

*Exciting news! My memoir is being published this February by Lucid House Publishing, and has already been selected as the March International Book Club Selection for the International Pulpwood Queens and Timber Guys Book Club Reading Nation (the world’s largest meet-and-discuss book club—with perhaps the world’s longest book club name, too). I’m honored and thrilled. And I’ll keep you posted on its availability!

5 replies »

  1. Oh,I am so sad that this hike is coming to an end. You have so clearly put into words what I am so often feeling and thinking. You truly have a wonderful gift, Marilyn,and I congratulate you on publication
    You continue to inspire and encourage me by your example, you transparency and your deep convictions. “ I thank God for you every time I remember you”. I will be praying for you.

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    • Oh, Barbara, your words mean so much to me! Thanks for sharing in the journey, and even more, in the great journey we began sharing in Boston so many years ago. Thinking of you always makes me smile. I love your gentle and faithful spirit.

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  2. Oh Marilyn I have loved this foray into Hebrews. Thank you again and again. I don’t think I have missed any, but if I did it was inadvertent because I have enjoyed it so much. You are right about this COVID time. It’s hard to keep track of what day it is sometimes… I too wonder what meeting of the church body will look like one day…
    But thank you again for preserving.
    You and Henry are much loved.

    Like

    • Thanks, Mary! I often thought of you as I wrote and posted these, knowing you were my #1 Reader and Top Commenter! I appreciate every comment and word of encouragement. You’ve also been on my mind a lot as I polish up my memoir about our time in Bombay. Wish we lived closer and could share some real life time together!

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