Perseverance is such a trifle term these days. Most of us have no understanding of the term. We use it haphazardly to speak of that which makes us uncomfortable. According to the Google Dictionary perseverance is steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. We see the ultimate demonstration of perseverance on Christ's road to the cross. In His 33 years of residing on earth He remained steadfast, unmovable. Even when the hour had come, in the Garden of Gethsemane, when His closest and most intimate companions forsook Him and in the heaviness of the hour He spoke:
32 They came to a place named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.” 33 And He *took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. 34 And He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.” 35 And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. 36 And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” 37 And He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38 Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 Again He went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him. 41 And He came the third time, and said to them, Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough; the hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!” (Mark 14:32-41)
Even at the most needed of all hours, when the Son of God confessed to His dearest companions, "My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death", even then, He was forsaken and yet still willing to persevere. "He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death," Philippians 2:8 says, "even death on a cross." Perseverance, God-given perseverance, requires humility and obedience. A giving up of yourself, even unto death.
I have wanted to, for sometime, write a short ode to my sister Heidi. Over the past 5 years I have watched her battle through difficult pregnancies, surgeries, cancer, radiation, and her middle child spend the first 3 months of her life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit with a 50% chance to live, but what reality displayed was a much smaller percentage. All that she has persevered through she has done so quietly. Without complaining, without belittling, without cursing the name of God. In quiet endurance she has and continues to persevere "A fool gives full vent to his spirit," Proverbs 29:11 says, "but a wise man quietly holds it back."
I often wonder what it is that sets men apart from others. Those that have become the humblest of servants and yet know God in such a way that I will never be able to understand. I have been a witness to these great men and women of God and yet still to this day it humbles me. Ten years ago I saw my mom, a mighty woman of God, slowly lose her life to Lou Gehrig's disease. Never a complaint, never a lament, but always a quiet prayer uttered with the little life she had in her. I have seen my husband endure Lymphatic Cancer and hours upon hours of chemotherapy and he too never once uttered a word of disdain, a grown, or complaint. And there also sits my sister Heidi, even after 5 years she still battles cancer to this day. How foolish I have been to think that battles were ever created to be loud,tumultuous events. I have learned from the cross, from the very words of Jesus, from the lives of these dear saints that have graced my presence that battles were meant to be fought in the quietness of the hour. Battles were meant to be fought on our knees and often times than none, on our faces.
Heidi and I have grown apart over the past few years. I have thought about the reason why. What it is it that has caused the distance? My only thought, in reading the Scriptures, is that she is at a different place than I because she is living in the midst of James 1:2-4, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." She has learned only to be still in the eye of the storm. A quietness that I nor any other human being will ever be able to understand or relate to unless you too have been given the ability to pass into the eye of the storm, the only place amidst the chaos that everything quietly stills itself. The place where you meet God face to face in the storm. The Psalmist David wrote of the eye of the storm so eloquently, and although this Psalm is so often read at funerals it was in all actuality written for those that are alive, for those battling the storms of life:
The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
I have come to the realization that God has placed these dear saints, my mom, my husband, my sister in my midst to teach me by example how to be still. The reason why I find it difficult to relate is because I have never been afforded the opportunity to endure such great trial that I would know God in a different way. Nonetheless, instead of growing apathetic towards the distance that has occurred it is my upward calling to learn from it. To sit quietly by and watch these dear saints interact with the Living God, learning as Christ so exhorted His disciples to "Keep watch and pray." Time is short to lose out on the lessons I have been called to learn from those that have learned Christ-like perseverance. This is an ode to my sister Heidi, an ode to that which God has done in your life. May He reci
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.
Burn the ships! We're not going back! Leaving an eternal mark on this world, one calle at a time.