The plaintive cry of children as the holiday season starts is enough to strike dread in any parent’s heart. It’s usually uttered fairly near the start of the journey and becomes increasingly whiny as the time spent in the cramped box otherwise known as a car adds up.
This cry is fairly typical of the impatience of the human heart, however. Whatever our personality type, most of us are filled with enthusiasm at the start of a project, buoyed up by emotion, excitement and exhilaration and fuelled by the nervous energy which anticipation brings. More is needed to sustain us on the long journey to our ultimate destination, though.
The Bible has much to say about perseverance, an old-fashioned concept that is desperately needed today. Perseverance, according to the dictionary, is ‘continued steady belief or efforts, withstanding discouragement or difficulty, persistence.’ (Collins dictionary).
The initial rush of enthusiasm and hard work at St Mark’s has to be allied to perseverance. Recently, I have watched people transform dark, gloomy rooms into places of light, but this was a persistent, gradual transformation. Each coat of paint was lovingly applied, then critically evaluated: “no, you can still see the original colour; it needs another coat!” Some people felt as though they were in solitary confinement as they painted toilets in restricted space, cramped, locked away, unseen, far from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the work. It was a parable of how God works: often largely unnoticed by the rest of the world, then emerging with the triumph of something classified as ‘good’.
The Bible says that perseverance produces character (Romans 5:4) and that we should make every effort to add perseverance to self-control and godliness to perseverance (2 Peter 1:6). We are in this project for the long haul. We need more than the first flush of enthusiasm to overcome setbacks and to persistently plough the right furrow.
Galatians tells us we reap what we sow and urges us ‘let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.’ (Gal 6:9) James tells us that the testing of our faith develops perseverance and that ‘perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.’ (James 1:4) We’ve not got there yet, but we are on the way and we will get there!