One of our favorite movies is Cool Runnings. It’s the not-that-true story of the first Jamaican bobsled team that went to the Olympics. It’s heartwarming and it has a great soundtrack. I make reference to it regularly because the inspirational scene at the end is a powerful picture. Here’s the image: the team has overcome so much adversity to make it to the big race, then the bobsled that they pieced together comes apart while they’re sledding at 60 miles per hour. Their dreams of winning are dashed, and they have the opportunity to feel bad for themselves as they sit in their wreckage in sight of the finish line. They choose to get up and carry their bobsled the last few feet and have a moral victory as they cross the finish line.
My spiritual journey looks a lot like 4 Jamaicans with a bobsled: messy, unusual, passionate, filled with hardships, and surprising victories. I don’t know how things are going to turn out, but I know I won’t quit.
This month I’ve been reminding myself about perseverance and its amazing rewards. When you’re learning something God makes it easy, but eventually you have to choose to add it into your lifestyle. I have to choose in my heart to make it part of who I am. Peace for a moment isn’t enough for me: I have to choose to know that I have peace available to me 24/7 and then continually practice it. When circumstances are getting loud, I still have the chance to live inside of my peace. Eventually I practice it so much that it becomes my new nature. It actually becomes a strength in my life because I had to work to put it there. Once a hard-won battle has been fought, you get to be the champion on the field. It’s MY peace. I fought for it. I know how to maintain it even in the toughest of times. I can share it with everyone I know because I know the secret path to that mountaintop. I then can reveal that truth with the force of my personal story behind it and it can become a revealed truth in the lives of the people around me. They can choose to grab it and demand that their life receive it. Our life is what we choose it to be. The life that we see is the fruit of the truths (or lies) that we believe.
The Bible put it this way: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” It’s become kind of a game for me. Sometimes it’s so obvious that my peace (or whatever) is under assault that I actually just laugh and make extra sure that I maintain my peace or goodness. When one kid is grumpy or defiant in our house it may be a fluke, but when all 4 are coming at me from every angle, it’s time to get silly and have fun! I make them laugh, I dance around, I change the atmosphere and restore good humor. I basically stiffen my spine and think “There is NO WAY that this situation is going to defeat me! You couldn’t make me quit if you tried.” When my kids complain that doing the dishes or cleaning their room are too hard, I remind them that when things are tough, we pick up our bobsled and walk across the finish line.
It’s time to be strong in the Lord in the midst of the gobbledygook that tries to bring us down. “I trust you, God. I won’t quit no matter what. I know you said reconciliation (or patience or financial stability or whatever) is what you’re doing with me in my life. I trust you, and I am going to look for signs of [reconciliation] in all of the circumstances in my life regardless of the fact that [everyone I know is fighting and it seems like nothing is going to get better].” It becomes incredibly obvious that we are on the brink of massive victory when the flood of opposite circumstances comes rushing in. Stand strong in God’s truth and ride out the storm. The circumstances will eventually bow to the truth.
This is a consistent theme in scripture. David was anointed as king then spent the next decade and a half hiding in caves from people trying to kill him. Then “David strengthened himself in the Lord”. David learned how to access his closeness with God regardless of horrible things happening all around him. He had grown to be a man that could handle the stress of ruling a kingdom while still staying connected with God, and actually created such a prosperous era that it ushered in Israel’s Golden Age of history. I could cite multiple examples of people that had to choose to win in the face of intimidation and apparent failure: Moses, Jesus, Paul, and many others.
Endurance is part of our maturity. Anyone can be good, kind, patient, or peaceful for 5 minutes or when everything is going well. Our strength of character is shown in the long game. The circumstances in our life, and therefore our need to rely on God, is building our character so that we can carry the blessing of all the things that we’ve asked God for. I’m so very thankful that God has walked this long road with me and that I’m so much more mature as the years have gone on. I would have fallen flat on my face if God would have given me everything that I asked for at the level that I asked for it when I was so very young. God in His mercy built my strength on the steep, hidden trails of life. Through these character building years, my love has grown and my judgmental nature has evaporated. I’m thankful that we’ve chosen to endure in marriage for almost 18 years through all the ups and downs. I’m seeing answers to prayers that I’ve been praying since we were first married. My husband’s gentleness and kindness and supportive love for me have been a miracle over the last year. I’m so thankful that I did not quit during the hard times. I always kept the finish line in sight: I know that it’s worth it. I know that a strong marriage and family are worth it. I know choosing peace and kindness in my life are worth it.
So, when I (or my husband or my kids or my friends) want to give up; when we want to quit because it’s overwhelming or tough; when we don’t think that we can possibly go any further, I remind us all that it’s time to pick up that bobsled, put it on our shoulders and start walking. It only takes a few steps and then the crowd starts cheering and you get to feel the complete elation when you cross that finish line. You know that it wasn’t easy and you didn’t have the smooth, quick victory; but you completed what you set out to accomplish and you did it with your head held high.
Don’t give up. Hold your head high and finish strong.
Are you having any situation in your life where you’re having to dig deep for the grit to keep on going? Is grit one of your family values? Share your story in the comments below.