And...One More Time. The Value of Persistence.

There are all sorts of stories of people who’ve been successful after being persistent in the midst of difficulty. Thomas Edison. Rosa Parks. Abraham Lincoln. Steve Jobs. Even ancient writings like the Bible utilize stories of diligence to illustrate its value. I was reminded of this on a recent camping trip with some good friends. So you know that this is a fresh piece and not a recycled tale from seasons past, let me recall an adventure.

I enjoy camping. Not car camping where you’re car is parked next to your tent in a specified campground and not “RV camping” – sorry, that’s not camping. You can’t have a flat screen TV and call it camping. No, I savor an honest hike into the woods to find a special spot to set up my hammock and camp. And the time of year is important, too. Not too hot, not too buggy. Usually right around February to May is my favorite time to camp in the North East, with a strong leaning towards February. Yes, I do enjoy winter camping and I just came back from such a trip.

About eight of us trekked into the woods last weekend to enjoy a little bit of frozen nature. Bugs were nonexistent as was the need for tarps to stave off the rain. And with 8 to 10 inches of snow on the ground, most of the firewood was absent, too, at least from sight and that’s where the illustration begins.

If you ask most people they’ll agree that life isn’t easy. Perspective plays a huge role in this opinion since one person’s “bad day” is another’s “great success”. It really depends on where you’re mind is and what your circumstances are – attitude plays a huge role in this estimation. And when life is complex and thorny, it can get the better of us. I spend a lot of time with people who share all sorts of struggles that deflate their morale. For some, persistence looks a lot like just getting out of bed the next day. For others it means reevaluating their career and making risk-filled changes. It varies because people aren’t widgets cranked out of a factory. Human beings are complicated, filled with emotions, passions, fears, wounds and wonderments – we just can’t place ourselves in a box and be done with it. But despite all of the variables, when we’re persistent – when we exercise what I call “stick-to-it-tiveness” – there can be some very warming rewards.

Two others and myself had left several hours earlier to prepare the campsite. As we traipsed through the snow we had a rough go of it. It was tough because we were blazing a trail in crusty, give-way-when-you-step snow while weighed down with packs of gear. The temp was in the chilly 20s and a healthy swath of snow made a beautiful blanket for the earth. After some scouting of the area, tents needed to be set, dinner prepared and wood…hmmmm…wasn’t anywhere to be seen. The blow downs were simply smooth lumps and silky bumps under the fluid white carpet, hardly visible. This was going to be a challenge.

As I reflect on that weekend there were a lot of things that required persistence. Erecting tents with broken poles. Trying to establish an impromptu kitchen, third time is always a charm. Setting up my hammock for the first time in 2 years and not recalling the procedure. My mantra of, “I should’ve watched the video”, became a running joke between my good friend, Cord, and myself. In the morning, after a night of single digits, getting the camp stove pump to work was an exercise in improvisation and consultation. Then, of course, there was the gathering of appropriate wood for the fire. In all of these things, and then some, if we’d given up too soon we would’ve had a less-than-pleasant weekend.

As the rest of the team came into camp, the first task set before them was to gather wood for the fire. When the charge was given they just kind of looked around, hands at their sides in disbelief. Their eyes seemed to scream, “Where?” The snow was so thick it appeared to be an impossible task. After some old fashioned goading and a little instruction, the dead trees useful for fire seemed to materialize before their eyes. Had the team simply given up, the warmth of a fire in subzero weather would’ve been a haunting nightmare. Throughout the weekend the fire burned and bodies were warmed while spirits were high.

Persistence is something that all of us must develop, and the sooner the better and it takes practice. And may I suggest that calm persistence be the preferred approach. There are a few who have very little stick-to-it-tiveness and give up quickly. I know several men and woman who are ferocious as rabid dogs when surrender waves the white flag. They push even harder and I admire them for it. There are some personality types that persistence comes naturally, but for the most part, I think it’s a learned behavior. So much can be attributed to persistent women and men over the ages.

Persistence can pay off in many ways, especially spiritually. We're urged to model the Persistent Widow in the Gospel of Luke, 18. The parable is told in an effort to encourage people to pray and to not give up when there's a deal in our prayers being answered. Persistence. Again, we're instructed in Jeremiah 29 that in seeking the LORD we are to be persistent. And it's also expressed in Jesus' epic monologue, The Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew. Mixed with all of the beauty of the Beatitudes and cautions on careful judging that we focus on, we find the call to be persistent in our search for life

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
— Matthew 7:13-14

I can’t stress enough the value of being persistent. It can pay huge dividends for this life and the next. So, what stories of stick-to-it-tiveness do you have? What successes have you reaped because you simply wouldn’t give up? It can be encouraging to others to share these kinds of tales, so take a moment and share. And if at first you can’t think of one, well, be persistent!