Depart the Rat Race this Holy Week
Do you ever feel like there is no way out of the rat race? Do you feel enslaved to a way of life that isn’t all that it is cracked up to be? I have conversations about this all the time. Although many people have successful careers, families and friends that love them, and above average financial resources, they know that something just isn’t right. Rather than feeling gratitude for blessings received and peace about what the future will bring, they are anxious. They may be doing well now, but they worry that everything could fall apart over night. This lingering anxiety produces a driven life. They are driven to perform at ever higher level in the workplace to make sure they don’t lose their jobs. Because everything could fall apart over night, they are driven to accumulate more and more financial resources, just in case. Their parenting is also driven by anxiety. They want their children to succeed in the rat race and so without knowing it they begin to train their children to win this race. At an early age, they begin to build the child’s future resume. By the time their children are 10 years old, they have been introduced to an endless array of “extra-curricular” activities that will look good on the college application. (I am exhausted just describing this!) Worst of all, even though they know there is something wrong with this picture, they aren’t sure there is any way out.
In Isaiah 43: 16-21, the prophet of the Babylonian exile announced that God is about to do “a new thing” for a people who also wondered if there was any way out. This unnamed prophet announced that the God who liberated the slaves from Egypt in the first exodus was going to liberate them from their oppressive existence: “I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” One can well imagine that the exiles found this hard to believe. When their temple was destroyed and their homeland taken from them, they felt forsaken by God. The right hand of the Lord that had delivered them from Egypt had “lost its power” (Ps 77:10). Why should they believe that God could do anything about their situation now! In light of the facts on the ground, some of the exiles must have decided to make the best of their new home. Others were finding the good news of a second exodus to good to be true. Clearly there was some resistance to the prophet’s Good News that God was going to use Cyrus the Persian King to liberate them. If the people didn’t have their doubts about God’s capacity to deliver them, why would the same prophet have had to command them to leave: “Depart, depart, go out from there” (52:11)!”
Holy Week is about an “exodus” from the rat race that enslaves us. Every day this week, God is saying “Depart, depart, go out from there!” Indeed, Luke’s Gospel refers to Jesus’ passion in exodus terms. In Luke’s account of the transfiguration (9: 28—36), Peter, James and John overhear Moses and Elijah “speaking of his departure (exodus), which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” To follow Jesus to Jerusalem, to the Last Supper, to Good Friday, and to the tomb is the only way out of what enslaves us. Let me repeat: It is the only way out. There is no self-help book that can do this. There is no amount of exercise and healthy eating that can do this. You see, what we see this coming week is what a life lived in obedience to the God of liberation—not the Gods of the rat race—looks like. And as we contemplate Jesus’ self-emptying love, there usually comes a moment when we hear the call to “depart” and can taste the goodness of a life lived in the freedom of God.
Of course, it is easy to miss the wonder of this week because we are distracted by other things. The God’s of the “rat race” don’t give up easily. The question we all face this Holy Week is this: Do we want to stay in exile, or depart for something a whole lot better?