I had been doing so well at blogging consistently every week, and then life just got in the way. However, my lack of blogging over the past few weeks does not reflect a lack of wondering or thinking or questioning things; in fact, I think I have been doing more mental processing lately than usual.
Over the past few weeks, I have been contemplating the concept of perseverance.
Here’s why I’ve been thinking about perseverance: I have been rigorously exercising what I hope is perseverance over the past couple of months while my house has been for sale. If you’ve ever sold/bought a house, you understand completely: it’s not always a fun, easy, straightforward process. It really necessitates perseverance—how else could you handle selling your house (unless you’re one of those lucky people whose house is snatched up a couple weeks after being on the market)?
To share with you my thoughts on perseverance, I have to explain my thoughts on bravery.
I’ve been reading A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (yes, another great medieval fantasy). Near the beginning of the book, the character Bran is watching his father, Eddard, execute a criminal. Bran is only seven years old, so naturally, he’s a little afraid of what he is going to see. He asks his father if you can still be brave even when you’re afraid. His father replies, “That is the only time you can be brave” (Martin, 1996, p. 18).
I thought that was interesting. Before reading that chapter, when I pictured someone who is brave, I pictured someone fearless when others would be afraid. However, Martin has presented a very different perspective: we can only exercise bravery in the face of fear—when we are afraid. This suggests that a brave person isn’t necessarily fearless; a brave person just recognizes the value or the necessity in facing his/her fears and not letting those fears get in the way of things that are more important (in Bran’s case, keeping his eyes open and watching the execution so as to prove his strength as a “man,” his political standing as a Stark and his likelihood of becoming a knight). The whole situation scared Bran, but he controlled his fears for the sake of something more important, thus exercising bravery.
I wondered if the same logic can be applied to perseverance. I have been starting to wonder whether you can really “persevere” if you are frustrated, disappointed and in the middle of throwing up your hands in the air and exclaiming, “That’s it! I give up! I can’t do anything about this anymore, so I’m just going to let things happen as they will.”
What is perseverance? I found two dictionary definitions:
1. Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
2. Continuance in a state of grace leading finally to a state of glory.
Before this week, I always thought that someone who persevered basically had a calm smile, faith and patience and experienced peace no matter how long something threatened to last for or how frustrating something threatened to be. I pictured someone happy and calm as ever while a series of stormy, time-consuming, challenging events kept appearing and trying to break that person’s resolve to remain steadfast in patience.
In light of what Martin’s characters said about bravery, I wondered whether the only time you can truly persevere is when you are faced with a long, frustrating wait. Maybe perseverance only comes once you have waited longer than you thought you ever could. Down the rocky, seemingly endless road called “Waiting,” maybe there is a point where the maps stop plotting the route, where you’ve done all you could do to navigate yourself through the territory of Waiting, you have thrown your compass in the woods off the road in frustration so that you have no idea where to go, and you pass a sign that reads “Congratulations, You Have Persevered!”
What do you think? Can we still persevere even when we are ready to give up? Then what?
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you, there is more of God and His rule.” Matthew 5:3, The Message