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If you had to come up with one word of advice or bit of encouragement that you think would apply to almost everyone in any circumstance, what would it be? Picture a generic inspirational poster or a sign along the road that's meant to encourage... what do the themes tend to be?
Maybe... you are not alone... or just take the next step... or you are loved.
Of course there is no way to come up with one perfect saying that is 100% always going to help everyone in every circumstance. But it seems like one of the most common rallying cries for humanity might have something to do with not giving up. Even if "don't give up" isn't the exact phrase that's used, isn't it generally at least an accompanying or underlying theme?
You are not alone... so don't give up.
Don't give up... just take the next step.
Because you are loved... don't give up.
I wonder why this idea of enduring is so prevalent in our ways of encouraging each other, especially in hard times. I guess the idea of enduring can take on a lot of different meanings. Sometimes to endure means to keep working really hard on a project to see it to completion. Other times enduring simply means getting up to face another day. Or even just to keep breathing, to stay alive.
I suppose if at its most basic level, to endure means to live, it's no wonder this theme would be such a common one. If humankind is naturally searching for a reason to live, then it's kind of like one part of the message we need would be the reason and the other part would be the living - i.e. enduring.
The thing is though, I wonder if I sometimes get the wrong idea about enduring. I turn the idea of enduring into "put-lots-of-pressure-on-myself-to-keep-going-or-else!" What if sometimes enduring looks more like sitting still than running faster? Could it be that both count? If there is a time and season for everything, maybe endurance changes from season to season.
This past summer I joined a group called hope*writers - an online community of writers - and one of the things they taught me is that "your pace is your pace and there is no such thing as behind". As writers, we are encouraged to make progress but not to get caught up in the trap of thinking that our progress has to look exactly like someone else's progress.
I feel like this concept fits pretty well with endurance. The key is not that we endure according to some kind of lofty goal or high-pressured stakes, but rather simply that we keep moving forward, at whatever pace we can manage. And then we relax knowing that all progress is progress, and we stop beating ourselves up that we're not further along than we wish we were.
In reality, I think my level of endurance is inconsistent at best, both in writing and in other areas of life. Just in the course of one evening of trying to lead my children through the various stages of the "bath/bedtime routine", I found myself oscillating between having an "I've-got-this" mindset to more of an "all-hope-is-gone" one. I suppose in the end, you could say I endured, because as I'm writing, the children are all bathed and in bed. But I would be lying if I didn't say I wish my endurance could have looked and felt a bit more smooth and steady.
Maybe though, any kind of endurance - even when it's far from perfection - is still something to celebrate. Maybe every time we endure, we can look back with gratitude for God's grace and strength in helping us through - even if part of our reflection includes leaning on God's mercies for the parts in which we fell short.
They say "the only way through is through", and I suppose it's true. As long as we're alive, it seems we are called to continue enduring. To keep taking steps. Keep moving forward, bumps and all. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes barely moving at all.
What is it that keeps us going? It's our good and almighty God. His love, His faithfulness, His presence, His peace - everything about who He is - endures forever. We may be like simple jars of clay, but we have the treasure of the light of God living inside us, and THAT endures forever.
Pray with me...
... for all in the ACSD community to not lose heart but to endure
Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Corinthians 4:1
... for open eyes to see the power of God at work within and through our students, staff and parents
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7
... for God to continually renew us and give us His perspective on our "light and momentary troubles"
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Photo credit: Lynne Burkholder (lynnebetht)
~ Carrie Warner, ACSD Prayer Team Coordinator
Soli Deo Gloria
To God alone be the glory