If you find yourself in a prickly spot, struggling in life with your dreams being elusive, listen carefully for the next few minutes. And, if things are going well, you’ll want to keep reading, too, because today’s message is meant to spur everyone on towards victory!
I enjoy camping. Not car camping with the vehicle parked next to the tent. And not RV camping – sorry, that’s not camping. You can’t have a 50-inch flat screen and call it camping. No, I savor an honest hike into the woods to find a splendid spot for setting up my hammock. And the time of year is important, too. Not too hot, not too buggy. Usually right around February to May is my favorite time in the Northeast, with a strong leaning towards February.
A few years ago eight of us trekked into the woods to enjoy some frozen nature. Being mid-winter, bugs were nonexistent as was the need for tarps to stave off rain. And with 8 to 10 inches of snow and ice on the ground, most of the firewood was absent, too, at least from sight. If this weekend, with the promise of negative temps, were going to be anywhere near successful, being persistent would be necessary.
People aren’t widgets spewing out of a factory.
If you ask most people, they’ll agree that life isn’t easy. Perspective plays a huge role in this opinion since one's bad day is another’s great success. Mindset and circumstances – attitude playing a huge role in this equation – can make all the difference. And when life is complicated and thorny, it can get the better of us. I spend a lot of time with people sharing all sorts of morally deflating struggles. For some, persistence looks like getting out of bed in the morning. I know that feeling! For others, it means making risk-filled career changes. It varies because people aren’t widgets spewing out of a factory. Humans are beings, complicated, filled with emotions, passions, fears, and wonderments. 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.
Traipsing through the snow to prepare camp we had a rough go, weighed down with gear, blazing a trail in crusty, give-way-when-you-step snow. In the chilly 20s, freshly fallen flakes made a beautiful earthen blanket. After some planning, setting tents, and preparing dinner we needed wood…hmmm. There wasn’t a twig visible. The blow downs were simply smooth lumps and silky bumps under the frosty, white carpet. Camping was going to be a challenge!
With the rest of the team arriving, the first task was gathering wood. With nothing visible other than snow, their eyes seemed to scream, “Where?” After some old-fashioned chiding and a little instruction, the dead trees useful for fire magically appeared beneath their hiding places. 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, warming bodies and keeping spirits high.
As I reflect on those days, there were a lot of things requiring persistence. Erecting tents with broken poles. Trying to establish a working kitchen was anything but fun, third time is always a charm. Setting up my hammock for the first time in 2 years with my mantra of, “I should’ve watched the video”, became a running joke between my good friend, Cord, and myself. And, in the morning, after a night of single digits, getting the pump on the camp stove working was an exercise in improvisation. Then, of course, there was the gathering of firewood, again!
Persistence is something that all of us must develop, and the sooner, the better. There are some who have minimal stick-to-it-tiveness and give up quickly. I know several men and woman who are relentless. They push even harder in the face of difficulty, and I admire them for it. Some personality types are naturally more persistent, but for the most part, I think it’s an acquired behavior.
Persistence can pay off in many ways, even spiritually. We are urged to model the “persistent widow” in Luke 18. The parable is told encouraging people to pray and not give up. In Jeremiah 29, in seeking the LORD, we are instructed to do so persistently. And finally, in the epic, Sermon on the Mount, Jesus beckons us to search for life, with persistence.
I can’t stress enough the value of persistence and the dividends it pays. What stories of stick-to-it-tiveness do you have? What successes have you reaped because you just wouldn’t give up? What do you wish you'd stuck with longer? And if at first, you can’t think of a story, well, be persistent!
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. ~Jeremiah 29:13