If you falter in a time of trouble,
how small is your strength!
It was everywhere in my readings this morning. Proverbs. Luke. Hebrews. The book I’m reading by Mark Buchanan. A morning devo sent to my email. Everywhere, I tell you. This warning to persevere.
Immediately I prayed. God, I admit, I am prone to be small of strength. Jesus, be for me what I lack in myself.
But I am reminded, too—we almost always have more strength than we expect.
I overhead my husband talking to a coworker on the phone last week. He told her (I assumed it was a her) about the work he’d been doing this summer, now fall, to finish the house we’ve been building. He talked about his hip, and his limp, the pain he overcomes with each new project, each required step. Six weeks until surgery. And then I heard him say something about the necessity of perseverance, sensing a subtle change in topic. They were no longer talking home improvement, but the harder realities of 2020.
And I thought to myself, I should write about this.
Last week we reached the summit, so to speak. Green Lake: Elevation 14,000 painstaking steps. Or something to this effect. We talked about making a cardboard sign, posting it online.
My last day as Constance Free Church staff, and our last day putting finish on hardwood floors, converged on Friday. Late-afternoon I put finishing touches on twelve years of ministry investment, loaded my car with personal belongings, and pulled away. In tears. I arrived at the lake, heavy-hearted, already exhausted, wondering how I’d ever endure the anticipated hours required to meet our construction deadline. Which of course, I did.
We did. So many times, these past weeks, past months. Last winter, deciding which jobs would be ours, and which ones we’d hire, I’d chuckle when telling friends and family, “We’re doing a lot of work ourselves.” The joke, I’d thought, was saying “we” when of course, I meant Kyle. DIY home construction being his strong suit, not mine. I imagined myself checking in from time to time, giving a bit of assistance when the tasks were light.
The joke, it turns out, was on me.
Here I am in my sixth decade (early 50’s that is) acquiring skills and building muscle, no one, especially not me, actually imagined. February last, my wrist in a cast. By mid-summer physical therapy turned heavy lifting, as my husband’s hip wore bone-on-bone. Not saying it stopped him. It didn’t. But I became (perhaps to his frustration) his necessary apprentice.
All this to say. This project has taught us—in opposite directions—what it means to persevere.
Now, I do realize, it is one thing to persevere in building a lake house, which sounds, I’ll admit, like an oxymoron. It is another thing to persevere in times of pandemic/panic/political upheaval. Or the end of the world. My sister, last week, while helping to apply poly to a garage-full of alder doors—asked if I own a gun. Yikes. I told her, I’d only last week learned to use a table saw. But alas. An hour or so later the conversation had shifted to missionaries living among cannibals, me asking if they'd carried guns, the two of us admitting, probably they’d laid down their lives instead.
Which—maybe you’ve noticed—has been the theme of many-a-blog-post this summer, as I have processed, in writing, my core conviction that following Jesus means picking up a cross, and laying down rights. And, although I was very intrigued by a yard-sign my mom pointed out yesterday, driving through a southern suburb—it read “JESUS 2020”—I can’t say for sure I’d muster the courage in the face of persecution to die a martyr—or display that sign.
So this morning, it’s there in Proverbs, and again in Hebrews, and I know myself well enough to know conviction is one thing, and staring down danger, completely another—and I pray. I admit small strength, but I remember things accomplished beyond anticipation, and I think this is a decent recipe for perseverance.
Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. Hebrews 10:32-35 & 39