Posts Tagged ‘endurance’

Drawing by Oldřich Kulhánek

Drawing by Oldřich Kulhánek

Job did. At least, that’s what is written about him in Job 7:16 and then again in chapter 10, verse one.

I despise [loathe, hate] my life; I would not live forever.
    Let me alone; my days have no meaning. [Job 7:16, NIV]
and . . .
I loathe [hate] my very life;
    therefore I will give free rein to my complaint
    and speak out in the bitterness of my soul. [Job 10:1, NIV]

The dictionary defines “despise” as loathing and “loathing” as a feeling of disgust or intense aversion for something. If we switch over to the word “hate,” it is defined as an intense or passionate dislike, an extreme hostility toward something.

In the early weeks or months of Job’s suffering (no one knows for sure how long he suffered, but most scholars count his time in months and weeks and not years), he hated his life. His suffering was so intense, his dismay at the losses, his “why me” lament, caused him such intense feelings, that he abhorred his very existence.

And yet, he did not kill himself. He was, despite it all, somehow surrendered to God’s will.

There is so much I do not understand about Job, but I do see this: he was in terrible pain. He was distraught and hated his circumstances. He wanted it all to end. He wanted to forget, to stop feeling, to stop experiencing all that was horrible in his life. He was attacked by his own friends and he was misunderstood. Nothing new there. Job was fully human. He was no angel in his torture and so he cried out with intensity and even venom. But he remained.

Even his wife said he should “curse god and die!” She too suffered, but ultimately placed the blame fully on Job’s own shoulders. As did his friends.

Apparently, someone has to be to blame. We do it in our modern times too, don’t we? It’s the boss or the President or the Congress or the neighbor. It’s the parents or the children or the Pastor or the car in front of us. It’s the farmer or the industrialist or the millionaires on Wall Street. It’s the Muslims or the Gays or the Polygamists. It’s the Jews or the Christians or the liberals or the conservatives. They did something! Things are bad. Someone did or said something to bring this on. Right?

Or, maybe, just maybe, it’s up to us to simply stand in the midst of the storm.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” [Ephesians 6:13, NIV]

When my friend, Mary, died on Mother’s Day, 2013, she endured several months of the ravages of pancreatic cancer. Her disease was inoperable and therefore, nothing could be done but to ride it out. When I visited her early in her death pilgrimmage, I will never forget her words: “I did nothing to cause this. I have been healthy all of my life; I ate well, I exercised, I took care of my body and my spirit. This is simply part of my journey and I will to experience it fully, without blame toward anyone, including Spirit.” And so she touched hundreds of lives in her final months and died with no miraculous healing or recuperation.

She did not despise her life or her God.

Hate and disdain, name-calling and blame-shifting, take up a lot of energy. They suck up valuable human resources.

No more. No more.

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What do you think it means to “fight the good fight?” I used to think it meant a lot of proselytizing and speaking out for the faith. I needed to take a stand, face derision for my beliefs, hold the line, and be bold for Jesus. Wrong.

I Timothy 6:11-12a
But you, man [woman] of God, flee from all this [the love of money], and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.

To fight the good fight, it’s an interior struggle; it’s learning to choose, in the moment, the right way, the honest way, a choice that may not be “best” for me. It’s about experiencing God in such a way that I am awake to the Holy Spirit and respond to people and situations as the Christ would. It’s about believing in the truth of the Presence. It’s all real and true and does make a difference inside me. I am different because of that Presence. It’s love. And that’s the most difficult of all because it’s love in the face of all things, it’s love so strong that one’s heart is visible, it’s love so authentic that is can tolerate rejection and hatred and betrayal. That’s why endurance is part of the package. That’s the fight part. Keeping on. And then, the last: gentleness. What? Gentleness? How do we do this long-suffering battle with gentleness?

It would take everything in me to test to truth of these words. And that’s the point.

I need to be gentle with myself. It’s a journey. It’s a war to become . . . to really give it all away (those old ways, not just the stuff) and follow the Christ.

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When I was in acting school, we used to always talk about “the work.” Those in the know used this term to describe the art of acting. It’s a multi-layered process that most people would not recognize because it’s a good deal of interior work. This is not dissimilar to the work of the believer.

I Thessalonians 1:3
We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

It takes awhile to realize that the interior self is working, perhaps harder than the outer self. It takes awhile to recognize that self within and cooperation with the Holy Self (or Spirit).

John Sandford (former director of Elijah House and the author of Transformation of the Inner Man and Healing the Wounded Spirit) speaks of the slumbering spirit, our personal spirit in an unconscious state. Waking up is work too.

For Paul, the work stems from faith, love and inspiration. These fuel the work.

They require exercise.

I cannot do the work if I haven’t learned about the job, its requirements, and its parts. There are mentors out there who have been working at it for quite some time. Some people call them Spiritual Directors or Counselors or Ministers or Priests. They are around to help us learn the work.

But, in the end, it’s up to me to wake up in the morning and start my day, to seek out my Partner, and to embrace the challenges this day will bring with hope and love and faith.

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Now here’s a word we don’t use much any more: forbearance. I understand why, it has so many possible meanings, from patience to easy-goingness, to restraint and endurance. It’s actually a type of grace. Forbearance is usually undeserved.

Colossians 3:12-13a, 14
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive . . . And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

And so, with these definitions in mind, I consider how the power of love can bind this unique grace to the other virtues, how love must be luxuriously forbearing. In fact, all of these virtues only become so when grace or forbearance is present.

According to Luke, Jesus said, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that.” [Luke 6:32-33]

Forbearance is a key to virtue. How many paradoxes will I discover for myself before I can actually embrace them? When will I really swim upstream like the salmon? What will finally drive me to act the opposite to every habitual behavior and response in me? When will I forbear instead of rail against those personal injustices, those unlovely remarks, or those exploitations?

To live out true paradox, like forbearance and love, requires the deepest inner strength and self-awareness. Otherwise, the day to day slips into victim-thinking or doormat behavior. Forbearance must be conscious, mindful, intentional, and eventually, after a lot of practice (in the Presence) and interplay with the Holy Spirit, it might become a norm.

Now there’s a great big hairy audacious goal.

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Tortoise and the Hare It’s not that I don’t know how to race; I’m racing all the time but my goal eludes me. Running, running but I forget to take care of myself along the way; I push myself–a little farther, just a little farther. But when I look down, I discover I’ve been on a treadmill the whole time. I’ve been in the wrong kind of race.

I Corinthians 9:24
Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but [only] one receives the prize? So run [your race] that you may lay hold [of the prize] and make it yours.

In biblical times, running and racing were standards in sports. Everyone understood this metaphor and, more than likely, understood the emphasis was on preparation, consistency, and endurance. Certainly, fast was good and winning the prize was good, but just running the race required stamina, desire, and perseverance over the long haul.

I don’t think we’re supposed to be running this race just to be first at the gates of heaven. This race is a marathon. And our desire should be to run the best race that we can run as individuals.

I want to run my race with joy. I want to give myself over to the race, but not in a competitive way. I want to learn how to optimize my movements. I want to see the world around me. I want to invite others to join me. I want form over speed.

The tortoise is in the race by choice. The tortoise is not designed to run fast, just steady. The hare is quick but foolish. Who will I be today?

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Sometimes we have to back into this process. What I mean is that there are times when circumstances drop into our lives and we are faced with learning perseverance the hard way. It can be done, but it’s not God’s best for us.

For instance, you might become ill with a serious disease that will take months or even years to battle. If you have not built on the phases Peter lays out in II Peter 1:5-7, you will probably discover that you must go back and pull them into the equation. If you want to live, you’ll do whatever it takes. And so, you endure. But as you endure, you discover you must control yourself, your anger, your frustrations. Careening emotions do not help the process. And then, you discover that the more you know about your disease and how others have handled it, the more knowledge you have, the more understanding you have of your circumstances, the stronger you feel. And then, you may find a desire to share that knowledge with others in the same situation. You may actually find that you feel better when you reach out beyond yourself and “do some good.” And finally, your faith in God is re-kindled!

And then, you head back up the chain and you are amazed to discover that you are stronger in each area and you are able to endure another day … another hour … another minute.

I discovered some of this backward/forward movement when Mike and I were in the adoption process for Lily. Being steadfast in our determination to adopt her was foisted upon us for a full two years. We did not go gently into this period of perseverance!

Perhaps it’s more accurate to call this process cyclical. It wasn’t a straight path from faith to virtue to knowledge to self-control to perseverance for me … it felt more like a circle and often there were times when I felt like I was on a race track going round and round and round with no progress; suddenly, a ramp would open up and we would be on another level. Yes, it was still going round and round but the view was different, the road was different, the goal was more clearly in sight, and the fire of hope was fanned into flame again.

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