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)
I can so identify with this! Thank you for sharing, Mary.
Mary Carver says
You’re welcome, Nancy. I’m grateful this was encouraging to you!
Ruth Mills says
Your title had me wincing & laughing as I was struggling severely to get going this morning! Great encouragement, stepped on my toes & gave me hope & perspective! Thank you. Blessings!
Mary Carver says
Ruth, I completely understand. I’m a night owl so mornings are never my favorite part of the day! 🙂
Beth Williams says
Now more than ever we need to be awake & alert to the things going on around us. I feel like Mark 13:12 is being lived out in front of my eyes. “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. There are many false prophets out there just turn on TV preachers. We must ask God for eyes to see, ears to hear & an understanding mind to ascertain the events of this world. It is time to quit reading Bible on autopilot but dig deeper into scripture. I need to pray more dangerous prayers, seeking God & His wisdom. Be more attuned to the events of this day & time. For I feel this may be the end times.
Kathy Francescon says
Mary Carver says
Yes, I agree, Beth. This is certainly a time for us to be more awake—and tuned in to God’s truth—than ever!
Amen indeed as I sit here hoping that the caffeine will finally kick in so I can focus. The older I get the more distracted I get or maybe it’s just because the past year has been such a nightmare.
Mary Carver says
Madeline, this past year has absolutely stolen some of our ability to focus. When we are continuously living in fight or flight mode, our body and brain give precedence to that and neglect our attention span, our creativity, even our ability to problem solve well. Be gentle with yourself. I pray we can all begin to recover from our collective trauma and gently wake up to what God is doing even in the midst of it.
This really spoke to my spirit this morning. I often find my mind wondering even in the middle of praying. Yet I’m learning that doesn’t make me a terrible believer, I just need to ask the Holy Spirit to help me refocus.
Thanks for this, Mary! I’m in a Zoom Bible study on 1 Peter. I can empathize with you, when you say you have “slept” through passages in the past. An in-depth study really helps us understand God’s word on a different level. 1 Peter 5:8 NIV says, “Be alert and of sober mind”. Then it goes into the prowling lion scenario. This passage was not new to me. But now I see it in new ways. It’s amazing what the Holy Spirit can do! And a tiny bit of effort on our part.
Becky Keife says
Mary, this article is so good. So needed. Im feeling both encouraged and convicted too. You’re not the only one who needs to wake up. Lord, help us.
Thank-you Mary for this encouragement this morning.
Blessings to all,
I am thankful for this reminder. Despite my current difficulties it is with the little things and staying intentional when I can that gives me hope of a better tomorrow.
Being awake to All God’s gifts one day at a time.
Thank you, Mary! This devotion is just what I needed. The pandemic changed my rhythms as my husband needed to work from home instead of the office and my two children needed to engage in remote schooling from home. I had finally adjusted to not having an empty house and gotten into a good routine of working on my book every day when my mother had a heart attack and I needed to go to NY to help her. Since returning home, I have not been able to write. It is like I went into hibernation mode. Through your words, I am hearing Jesus saying, “Stay awake and finish writing the book about Me and how I have worked in your life.”
Marilyn Saxon says
Col 3:2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Col 3:3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Col 3:4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Julia Morata says
Thank you, Mary, for this encouraging wake-up call! Though I can probably spout good excuses for being spiritually lethargic, unconcerned and ministry-inactive with the challenges of the Pandemic still weighing heavily in our part of the world (Manila), I know for certain I will reap what I sow and will not please our Lord Jesus who loves me and gave Himself for me! God be gracious to us and help us to be strong and courageous to do His will!