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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

When You Get Buckled Over Do You Get Up And Give It A Go Again?

PERSEVERE: to persist in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of counter-influences, opposition, or discouragement.

ENDURE: to undergo (as a hardship) especially without giving in; to remain firm under suffering or misfortune without yielding

STEADFAST: firm in belief, determination, or adherence; firmly fixed in place.

James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

To give you a little perspective before I go any further, the three words above and their definitions aren't naturally friendly to me. I've had to learn to coexist with ADD. At times, I've been bewildered by its effects on my ability to concentrate, manage impulse, and stay the course with just about all of life's disciplines. Other times, I've found ways to ameliorate it's chaos; I've learned to manage (somewhat) my natural bent toward easy distraction. Perhaps it's more accurate to say I can recognize it (somewhat) and reign myself in (sometimes) when I'm flitting from one thing to the next. While ADD works well with my natural motivation to explore and go beyond,  it wreaks havoc in tasks requiring discipline and focus.

So when I look at the words persevere, endure, and steadfast, I don't recognize a natural habitat. These disciplines for the mature highlight a substantial measure of persisting toward a destination, gutting it out through rough seas, and walking resolutely under trials with fortitude, even joy. while carrying a heavy load.

While not natural to my ilk, they do intrigue me. They're of weight and substance, even gravitas, therefore of great worth.


Since coming to Northampton, I've certainly met "trials of various kinds." They come in all shapes and forms, and in varying intensities, including overwhelming, even frightening. Some I've never faced before until we moved here; others are just part of the territory if one is a Christ-follower. A few I still face and see no end in sight.

What I don't see very much in me are attitudes such as counting my training trials as "all joy." I have neither the maturity nor fortitude, nor the sense of perspective for that character quality. I'm not saying I'll never, because God won't leave or forsake me in the task of producing steadfastness, as I keep trying to embrace the cross I've been fitted to carry. Faith tested repeatedly is faith perfected and ready for a life crown, i'e., complete, with no deficit for those who love him.

But sometimes I have to ask myself if I love him enough to willingly endure my frequent and continual testing. Does he matter enough that I'll gladly withstand them with good cheer. I think I do, but I get discouraged and can book a pity party. Or, I'll let my old nemesis depression sit a spell with me. He likes to pin failure notes near my heart and dim hope's brightening gaze.

I do love Jesus, but I feel I've wasted the promise we came here with. I've let him down. I'm embarrassed, even ashamed sometimes. I get wilted when I survey the last 5 years. Much of our vision is undeveloped and can feel like a mirage to me. Yet, some lives have been changed. We've faced all sorts of resistance (demonic and human); some of it well-meaning (human), and some of it just plain mean-spirited (human and demonic). But alongside, some people have been healed and released to freedom. imagine/Northampton has become their community. More often these days than before, the burden and strain of our struggle can just buckle me over. Those are the times when I ask, "What's it all about Alfie?" Then, I remember my love for Jesus and the shining magnificence of his Gospel and Kingdom; the cost he paid for me and the world, and his ennobling call to follow him. I remain moved by that because I love him.

This morning I wrote a prayer request to imagine people committed to praying for all of us and I noted I'm weary spiritually, emotionally, relationally and physically. I haven't felt this way on all four counts very much, but it's true right now .It doesn't feel like I'm enduring well. There are discernible cracks in my steadfastness. Persevering looks a tall order. I'd like to have Paul's perspective of "light and momentary troubles" to settle into my heart. God'll have to do that. I'm just not there these days.

I imagine I'll "get up and give it a go again" until he says stop, or I just can't go another foot. Don't know if or when that will be. He does. I just need a breather and perhaps a sip of that joy James was writing about.

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