Learning Endurance, Slowly
In these last few months I have had the chance to observe multiple species of birds caring for their nest through the live cameras at Explore.org. These beautiful and ornate creatures are helping to teach me a lesson. I would like to share it with you, if you would like to read on.
First, let me be honest about my character. I intend a lot and do very little. This is not to say I am not hardworking; I keep busy, but I don’t often accomplish those extra goals. Some might say that I intend to do too much, and they’d be right. But my weakest link is endurance, keeping at it no matter what.
I’ve always had to struggle to some degree with the ability to endure when the inspiration runs out. When I was young I had the worst habit of starting multiple projects and finishing none. I thank God that He made me aware of the negativity of this aspect of my character and worked to impose upon myself a stricter standard.
I can say that I have risen above some of my character kinks but the problem of enduring still plagues me today, only in different situations. How often have I taken the time to work out a schedule, that will enable me to fit more into my day, and then have nearly forgotten it a month later. I have my reasons, and some of them are very good reasons. But it boils down to one sorry point: there are times when I do not have the desire to endure.
In my every day life, this often means trying to keep to an exercise schedule, finish a ‘lame’ story I no longer feel inspired to write, and most importantly, being diligent in extra spiritual studies.
I was raised to start the morning with bible reading and prayer. The intensity with which I do this wavers at times but I thank God for parents who helped me and my siblings build this habit into our lives.
But it is not enough. I have found that the short morning hours do not afford me with enough time to study the bible as I need. I want to see myself growing spiritually and have something of worth to share with my readers.
I’ve been endeavoring to find more time to study the Bible. Only I find the demands of life often push out that needed time. It is none other than my fault, and there I have returned to my inability to remain firm in my schedule convictions.
I suppose this was lingering in the back corridors of my mind as I was reading from The Journals of Jim Elliot the other day. He brought up the time years ago when Moses father-in-law gave him some much needed advice on how to organize his time and duties. Jim was pointing out theological points from the passage and said, “the strength to do God’s work… ‘If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure…’ ” (Exodus 18:23).
The word ‘endure’ seemed to jump out at me. As I was contemplating that I remembered another entry by Elliot and went leafing back through the pages. On February 4, 1950, Elliot admitted very honestly his lack of focus in study that week. In attempting to berate himself he noted some things I realized I was missing. He said:
“I find I must drive myself to study, following the ‘ought’ of conscience to gain anything at all from the Word–lacking any desire at all sometimes. It is important to learn respect and obedience to the ‘inner must’ if godliness is to be a state of soul with me. I may no longer depend on the pleasant impulses to bring me before the Lord. I must rather respond to principles I know to be right, whether I feel them to be enjoyable or not.” (Emphasis mine)
Learning “respect and obedience” and “responding to principles” sounds rather Victorian in a day and age such as this, that encourages people to pursue whatever pleases them. And yet it appears it is essential to living a truly meaningful life.
When a person is at this point and they choose to ignore the “ought of conscience” they begin to drift, becoming distracted by personal demands and outside troubles, before eventually realizing that their frustration, lack of intensity and spiritual clarity started when they let themselves slip from the rigors of steady scripture study. I know because I have seen this in myself.
So what does all this have to do with observing wildlife? The theology of the principle was brought home by these very average and yet significant creatures of God’s creation.
The mother hummingbird builds a nest she will most likely come back to in years to come. It is sturdy, securely attached to the branch, and softened by an added touch of fluff, deliberately chosen for the rim of the nest. She spends long hours on her eggs, keeping them warm and safe. Long, tedious hours. When the chicks hatch, her days as they begin to fledge are filled with food gathering and administering. When the chicks finally leave the nest what does she do but prepare it for the next batch of chicks, and so on until the end of the season.
Now take the eagles, a considerably larger species of bird, but with the same sense of responsibility. In this case, both parents build the nest, a large, sturdy bed often measuring more than the length of an average human in diameter. The parents swap duty but the hours are still long as they sit on the eggs and then care for the young until they are grown.
I watched these creatures doing what they were created to do. Always hard at work and yet they appear to be happy, contented animals. The bible talks about how all of nature glorifies its Creator, and it is obvious that is what these creatures are doing.
As the bird was created to endure the long periods of patient waiting, so I was created to endure the more displeasing things of life, whatever they may be. I must learn to respect and obey the “inner must” if I desire godliness “to be a state of soul with me,” responding “to principles I know to be right,” whether I feel like it or not.
We must urge ourselves to do the undesirable and to keep at it, because in doing so we are glorifying our Creator and that is where we will find true contentment.
This is the lesson I am learning. How about you? Does this ring true for you as well? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!