These few weeks of Lenten reflection and increased prayer have been invitations to the Lord to poke around my interior house and excavate a few things that I thought were well hidden! And right about now, the virtue of perseverance is feeling pretty important.
Interestingly enough, I’ve been guiding the teens at youth group through a study of the book of James and perseverance is a key theme of James’ first chapter. During our last youth group meeting, we watched a moving video clip of Olympic runner Derek Redmond, who was favored to win the 400-meter race in the 1992 Olympics. About halfway through the race, his hamstring tore and he fell to the ground.
Amazingly, he got right back up and began hobbling along towards the finish line. At this point, all the other competitors had finished the race. Then something incredible happened. Derek’s father, ran down from the stands, pushed through security and headed over to his son. He put his arm around Derek’s waist and they made their way towards the finish line together.
Derek’s perseverance and commitment helped him finish his race, while leaning on his father’s shoulders. What a beautiful image of our heavenly Father, encouraging us and supporting us as we race along life’s journey. He extends His steady hand when the going becomes tenuous and we feel weak or shaky. He comforts us with His love and much-needed grace to persevere through the more painful segments of our race.
The dictionary defines perseverance as “steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.”
Steadfastness. Holding steadfast.
To what do I hold steadfast?
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2; emphasis mine)
Holding Steadfast to Jesus
This Lent more than in year’s past, I am drawn to meditate upon the Stations of the Cross and in particular the tenth station, when Jesus is stripped of His garments. I meditate here, asking the Lord to show me what garment must I be stripped of in order to hold steadfast to Him and to the race He has marked out for me. And He has answered with:
“Strip yourself of the garment of your pride and the garment of your fear.”
He’s calling me to reflect on how my pride leads me to believe that I can make it to the finish line through my own effort and will power. He’s also showing me how fear leads me towards ‘performance,’ seeking to earn someone’s approval or to avoid someone’s criticism.
When I give up the belief that I can do it on my own and give up striving to run the race by my own stamina, then I find the Strength that I really need. It’s got nothing to do with me.
Persevering in the spiritual race requires this paradoxical type of steadfastness that I enable, not by trying harder, but by giving up.
So let us breathe a collective sigh of relief right here! Our progression in the spiritual race, thank God, is not dependent upon our own hesitant strength and courage. Of course we can’t do it on our own! And praise Jesus that we don’t have to!
My race will be most fruitful when I hold steady to letting go and persevere in surrender.
Heavenly Father, as our Lenten journey continues, thank you for drawing us closer to You so You may speak Your Truth into our hearts. Thank you for giving us the grace and courage to keep moving forward into deeper and deeper self-surrender. Thank You that by Your grace alone, we will finish this race, filled with faith. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Copyright 2019 De Yarrison