“For many of us perseverance is not a spiritual quality that we aspire to. We seem rather to think that faith is evidenced by quick results. We get faith for something and start believing with the force of a steam train, but if we don’t see the results we want, and quickly, we lose heart.
I think it may be more accurate to say we lose faith quickly because we have already lost heart. Losing faith is merely a symptom. Much like chest pain is a sign of a heart attack, so lack of perseverance is a sign our heart has been damaged.”
-Bishop Todd Atkinson, from While He Lay Dying
I’m back in ranch country babysitting my grandchildren while their parents are away. They are hard-working folk, these cowboys. For over a hundred years they have been saddling up, no matter what the weather. Some of the more grizzled ones look like they have been in the saddle for a hundred years, but they are strong people.
I cleaned the fresh snow off the car, scraped the ice off the windshield, and drove the grandkids to school in the dark and cold this morning. None of us were thrilled about the rituals of a January morning. This is the longest month of the year for me. It’s a one foot in front of the other kind of time.
While I’m here I’m teaching my amazing twelve-year old granddaughter to sew. I’ve been doing it for so long I’ve forgotten how many steps there are to learning how to put the pieces of fabric together, but she catches on very quickly. She is also excited about learning math and science and is teaching herself sign language as well. She has an amazing ability to synchronize information gleaned from one area and connect it to another. It’s starting to come together for her. I love watching the way her mind works. But without the dailiness of school and reading and fact gathering she wouldn’t have the information she needs – and craves – to put the pieces together. Her brother is a keen observer of people and makes the same kind of connections, but in relationships. He already shows a growing ability to live with compassion and consideration.
And so we all saddle up and go through the routines of a winter morning, because perseverance in the dark and in the cold leads to breakthrough and connection to greater truths.
There are times when we are in crisis and facing overwhelming odds, as a community did when contending for the life of Bruce Merz, when the lessons the Lord has taught through perseverance start to come together. Who knew one of the lessons involved would be perseverance itself? Bishop Atkinson understood that like Daniel prevailing in prayer for 21 days, the breakthrough would not be quickly won.
Amazingly after 21 days of round-the-clock prayer there was breakthrough. We started to make connections – the kind of connections that change our lives forever.
The story is told in While He Lay Dying. The website, including photos and videos, is here.
It’s inspiring reading on a cold January day and may give you some of the information you need to gather for your own breakthrough.