This might cause you to think that some of my screws have come loose, but I’m way beyond the point of caring about seeming crazy. Do me a favor, though. Read all the way through. 🙂
In December of 2015, I had the pleasure of sitting with a dear friend at a wedding reception. While we were waiting for the wedding party to arrive to the reception site, we spoke in the manner that our conversations usually assume: the “get in there, share life, talk it out” kind of manner. She told me about one of her colleagues who receives a “word of the year” from God, and that she had taken his advice to listen for her own. She proceeded to tell me about her experience and encouraged me to ask God for my own.
That night when I laid my head down to rest, I decided to give it a go. So I’m lying in bed and start chattin’ up the Almighty like “yo, dude, let’s make this happen. 2016 word of the year, lay it on me” and – BOOM – outta nowhere: “perseverance”.
Can we talk about the still small voice for a second? It’s one of those things that, if you forget about it, startles you upon its return. I can hardly fathom a whispered word from a God that literally cannot be exaggerated, but it’s exactly what I got. Immediately I thought to myself “Uh…ok. Well I’m just gonna wait it out in case that wasn’t it.” It makes sense that I’d doubt it for a second, because an almost audible word spoken by neither of the two people in the room isn’t something that my flesh usually indulges without a second thought.
I awoke the next morning all excited. I was thinking “Man I’m gonna be awesome by the end of 2016. Perseverance?! I’m gonna be able to handle anything that comes my way. And not just “handle”, but destroy because I’m gonna be all steadfast and stuff.”
Let me tell you what perseverance really is. (Hint: it’s not something to make you more awesome.)
Perseverance is a warning. If you’re going to have to persevere, it AUTOMATICALLY means that things aren’t going to go the way you want them to. Persevere defined is “to continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success.” The word itself should’ve signaled an urge to gear up for what would inevitably be a tough year. I did not see the warning, and I was not ready for what was to come for the duration of 2016. I should also say, I think “perseverance” carries a positive connotation. Sure, the implications can be negative, but perseverance is a positive response thereto.
Perseverance is simplicity. About 8 months ago, my wife and I got rid of 1/3-1/2 of our crap and moved into a house that is 600 sq ft less than the one we left. It’s been one of the best decisions we’ve made in a long time. Our daily lives are so much simpler, and the kids are very happy in our current situation. Our lack of crap and a smaller house has been great in and of itself, but that theme has spilled over into other areas of our lives. Our theme is simplicity. It’s been a blessing during this season of perseverance, because so much of the distraction that all the extra usually brings is out of my mind. It’s certainly full of normal life things, but all the other garbage isn’t taking up the extra mental space I need for pushing through one day to the next. It’s also the simple act of living each day, each day.
Perseverance is mundane. I had this notion that I’d be peaking regularly through 2016; that I’d have victory after victory. It’s not so. That’s just not how it works. It’s an incredibly monotonous, daily drift: to wake up with the single goal of putting one foot in front of the other. There’d be spurts of seeming joy, followed by ten times as much anguish, which ultimately led to stoicism. I learned that being stoic isn’t the most ideal way to live, but it was the only option I had for success at taking one step at a time.
Perseverance is to look directly in front of oneself. This one is twofold. First, if I looked directly in front of myself, I could get a grip on what I needed to do to drift through the current day to the next. “Make it to work” or “make it to the gym” or “make it to nap time” or “make it to bed”…thinking too broadly doesn’t serve most of us well when in the middle of trials, because it scatters everything on “the list” (ugh, the list – I hate the list) into a widespread mess that is too hard for us to keep together – simplicity, remember? Second: when I look directly in front of me, I see the things that give me life: my wife, my kids, my house, my couch, my dog, my kitchen, my open curtains to the sunlight… When I’ve made it to the rocking chair to rest my body and mind, these things and more serve as a reminder to keep going.
Perseverance is trusting your loved ones. My wife, who walked with me in 2016, was a constant support and helpmate. In my most vulnerable year ever, I had to trust her with every burden, and she didn’t waiver in that support. (By the way, THIS is what it looks like when a wife “serves her husband”. I am forever grateful, and hope to reciprocate the same service in the same manner when needed.) I placed a similar trust in some family members and friends as well.
Perseverance is hanging on by a thread. It’s knowing that this day will end, and I will wake up tomorrow. It’s trusting that the thread will not break, and that if I hold on for JUST a little bit longer, I’ll make it to solid ground.
Perseverance is reaching your hands heavenward and saying “Jesus, this is me clutching the hem of Your garment. Give me something.”
Perseverance is deep, calming breaths at 3 AM that lull you back to sleep.
Perseverance is living second by second if necessary; closing your eyes and knowing that right here, right now, everything is okay.
Perseverance is letting the tears flow, when weeping is might seem like the only hope you have for numbing the pain that brokenness brings.
Perseverance is, to paraphrase Watchman Nee, to keep my hand on the plow while wiping away those tears.
Perseverance, I believe, is a promise. 2016 was the “year of undoing” for me. Or maybe it was more like deconstruction. Actually, you know what? On third thought, it was probably the year of destruction. [Not to worry, though. I’m okay. My family is okay. We are not in any danger.] I had a dream recently about a giant statue falling to the ground, leaving a crumbled mess of broken stone. That’s me after 2016. It would be impossible for me to forget this year, because the struggles I was up against were the hardest I’ve endured. (Also, I’m not going to tell you what they were, so don’t ask. I love you.) Yet, the stone that’s now lying in a mess all around me is a hint of a hope to come. Once everything is a mess, the only thing to do is rebuild…restore. I cannot believe that all of this perseverance was for naught. There has to be something at the end of it, even if that thing is seeing the fruit of what I suspect will have been the most shaping year of my life thus far as well.
So, onward. Though I could possibly find an answer one day for all the struggle, the perseverance won’t stop now. It was merely being developed over 2016 (though maybe not quite so “mere”. Perseverance wouldn’t be necessary if things weren’t dire.) I’m going to keep persevering to the restoration. And I have good reason to…
In December 2016, on the EXACT date I received my word in 2015, a new word was spoken to me (audibly – it’s the craziest thing) for 2017:
The promise is real. So now I will persevere to rest; to find where rest is and what rest means.
Rest is, after all, where restoration begins.
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To be completely honest, I’m not sure why I wrote this, especially since I’ve chosen to keep my circumstances concealed, other than for the hope that maybe it’ll help someone who feels like they’re in the throes of hardship. Also, if you can resonate with anything I’ve said, please let me know; kinship can be a huge relief for the struggling. Try to listen for your word, too, and if you have one, tell me what it is! Let’s talk about it!