Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Defining Perseverance

Does anyone have perseverance anymore?

perseverance - ˌpərsəˈvi(ə)rəns
1 steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success
2 Theology continuance in a state of grace leading finally to a state of glory.

My daughter and I are reading “The Long Winter” by Laura Ingalls Wilder and there were several instances where I am astounded by their perseverance and their expectations for perseverance.

Some of the very basic instances in the book have to do with the family’s perseverance in keeping themselves warm and fed.  They all take turns at twisting hay for fuel until their hands bleed.  The coffee mill must always be cranked to grind the wheat for the day’s bread because the mill grinds so little at time.  Baby Grace sits on Mary’s lap near the stove for which seems like hours on end!  Is that Mary persevering or Baby Grace? Either way, it’s pretty impressive. Pa hauls hay from the slough, with the horse falling through the snow as he goes.  He perseveres in getting the horse out of the snow and around the hole. He doesn’t turn back home saying, it’s no use. He continues on in order to bring the hay home for feed and fuel. 

In one instance, Pa is sharing with the family why the trains have stopped coming through to them.  The Superintendent was bound and determined to get the trains through the snow with blizzards coming and lasting 3 days each, with maybe a day’s break in between.  He decides to drive an engine into the snow bank on the tracks starting 2 miles away and building up speed to charge through the snowbank.  The engineer refuses the job, calling it suicide, and so the Superintendent does it himself.  He ends up buried and frozen into the snowbank until they dig him and the engine out.  He then gives up and states that the trains won’t run until spring.  Pa says that the Superintendent lacks perseverance. 

Huh, really? What did he expect him to do?  I guess he expected him to keep on charging into the cut until he got through.  Yep, I think that’s what he expected.

Another instance is when Almanzo and Cap Garland leave town to find wheat that is rumored to have been raised by a homesteader some 20 miles away.  It’s a rumor, no assurance that it is even there or where it is if it is.  It is bitter cold, the blizzards have only been stopping for a day at a time.  They also periodically fall through the snow as they travel over the undetectable sloughs.  They run along side the horses and sleds to warm their feet.  They slap their hands on their chests to keep the blood flowing through their numb hands.  Almanzo and Cap are a true picture of perseverance.  They risk their lives, with no benefit to themselves, to save many in the town from starving to death.  There is no more food in the stores and no hope of deliveries with the trains stopped.  Even when they reach their destination, they buy the wheat and head back home, refusing the hospitality of the homesteader in order to get home. 

Huh, really?  They were freezing, near frost bit, dead tired, and they didn’t stay the night even?  

The Ingalls had academic perseverance.  The girls all studied their books at home since they couldn’t risk going to school with the blizzards.  Even Mary, blind, memorized the readers and did her math figures in her head.

They had spiritual and moral perseverance too.  They rarely complained and when they did they repented immediately, sharing their gratefulness for what they had.  Instead of seeing how cold they were, they thought of how much colder they would be if they had stayed on the claim. Ma sees the emptying wheat sack in the corner and yet trusts that Pa will provide for them. She doesn’t say a word until he asks.  Instead of moping, they sang songs.  Even when Pa’s hands were so bad that he couldn’t play the fiddle, the girls all suggested singing anyway. 

We certainly lack all of these levels of perseverance.  I think because we do not need to persevere in our physical lives, we do not persevere in our moral, or spiritual lives.   We don’t even necessarily need to provide for ourselves or our own families, we have entitlements that we lean back on.  We can give up.

Physically and in other aspects of my life, if something is too hard, I just don’t do it.  I am wondering if that is a sin of sorts?  If God calls me to do something, to persevere in something, it is. 

I remember when I first became a believer, hearing the testimony of a young woman who was engaged to a talented college-bound football player in her high school.  She was the beautiful cheerleader, super-model type.  She was caught in all those worldly trappings, sleeping with her boyfriend (understandably), on the fast-track to the professional-beauty world.  Then she became a believer in Jesus and ended it all.  She gave it all up for the sake of persevering in righteousness, to obey Christ.

Some of us don’t even persevere in righteousness.  How often do we choose sin, justifying our actions?  Calling the call to obedience “legalism” for our own purposes?  God’ll get over it.  The Cross covers it.  That is lack of perseverance of the spiritual nature. 

Hebrews 12:2
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 

endure - enˈd(y)oŏr
1 [ trans. ] suffer (something painful or difficult) patiently
• tolerate (someone or something)
2 [ intrans. ] remain in existence; last

1 comment:

  1. Timely. Thank you, Amy! God bless you.