If you care enough, you'll persist, despite the pain
At the end of Bible study group the other night, we mums were groaning about the efforts involved in getting our children's various and complicated issues sorted out.
"It takes so much persistence," exclaimed one friend.
"Yes," said the other. "And persistence always means pain."
A little bell went off in my head. It seems so obvious now when I think about it that persistence and pain go together, but I don't think I've ever connected them in such a permanent and definite manner.
The next morning my alarm went off at 5.55am and instead of getting out of bed to run, I rolled over for another half hour of sleep.
The morning after that, I forced myself out of bed and into shoes and track gear and put myself out there on the footpath. One foot after another. Thud thud thud. Grimace, grimace, grimace.
Running still hurts, you see.
When I began running, I knew it would hurt. I mean, it killed me. I felt dead every single time. Murdered. Whipped. Suffocated. Drowned in my own sweat. As time went on, it got marginally easier - or I coped with the pain better - or something - and then I set a goal to run from my house to the bridge and back.
Every day I gave just a little bit more distance and a little bit more effort. I was still dying, but I was aiming for my goal and soon, I touched that bridge. That day, I celebrated. I also went out and bought me some nifty running gear, as a reward.
The next two weeks I didn't run at all. And then when I dragged myself out again, I was bitterly disappointed. It still hurt. Even though I had run to the bridge and back.
Inside, somewhere deep down, I had an image of myself triumphantly and effortlessly loping down the path. Here is a woman who has met her goal! my gait would say. She can run! She has persisted for a short time, and now it is all easy.
Ha ha ha. Not likely. Instead, I still thud and groan and spit and shudder.
Persistence comes with pain. And it always will. Running will more than likely always hurt, although it may become slightly less troublesome in time - a lot of time.
Playing the cello at the standard I want to play it is going to take me hours and years of squeaky practice and going over and over the difficult passages. I am going to have to master the stretch to extended position if I want to get my C and G sharps in tune. "But it hurts my hand," isn't going to be an excuse.
Raising children needs persistence. I'm not telling you parents anything when I say there is definitely pain involved in that particular little venture. (Let's just say they give you 'Mother's Day' for a reason - because it's hard.)
Writing books needs persistence. Today I slammed out 3,500 words. It was tough, but I kept going all afternoon and I felt good. Then I worked out that I'd only written five percent of the whole book. And that's just a first draft.
The real question is: why do people persist? If persistence equals pain, and pain equals suffering, why do we put ourselves through such (often) self-inflicted misery?
As I ran through the early morning Valley gloom and fog this week I thought about why I was out there, with cold ears and freezing fingers. What could possibly make me do this instead of snuggling, cozy in my warm bed?
The answer: I care about my health and, even more, I care about the fat on my tummy. That is, I care about it in a 'oh my goodness, look at this fat on my tummy, how am I going to get rid of it?' kind of way.
And the answer is the same for any question about persistence I care to ask myself. Whether it's cello, or writing, or parenting, or even continuing to make the small daily decisions to love others, to be welcoming and to be faithful to God, I persist because there's something strong inside that cares.
It's something that sees the end goal; being able to play 'The Swan' in five years' time, having another book in my hand, seeing my kids grow up sane and sensible and happy, and waiting for all the good things I believe God has for us in the end.
Seeing the end, and caring deeply about it is stronger than pain. It's what keeps us going when our muscles ache and our hearts are broken and being a listening ear means we don't get to put our feet up that evening.
Persistence is pain, but the end payoff will be worth it.