I continue to be amazed by people, who in the midst of emotional, mental, and physical weariness somehow manage to keep moving, keep serving, keep working. We are seeing it now in the grit and determination of medical professionals and first responders who in the face of the pandemic, keep helping the people around them. So much depends on them, and so we are grateful to each person who gets up each day and re-enters the “war zone.”
My own challenges have been less dramatic than what we’re seeing in the world today, but in the midst of my own challenges and hardships, I have managed to do what needs to be done to persevere, to put one foot in front of the other, even when I don’t want to–especially when I don’t want to. That is the theme of today’s post from 2015. May we each find the strength and courage to keep moving, even in the face of adversity.
Forty Days, Day 12–One More Mile
Sometimes I am simply too tired to fight. I read a friend’s Facebook post this evening that said, “This winter has taken the fight out of me.” I can sympathize with the winter weariness, though I am not feeling it fully myself. But I do know the feeling of being done in, exhausted, dispirited, and feeling like the life energy is leaking out from my very pores. It hasn’t happened in a while, but it has happened.
Lao Tzu says, “The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.” Sometimes I don’t have to go 1,000 miles, I only need to be able to go one more. What is it that keeps us moving when everything in us wants to sit down in the middle of the road and give up? I might not feel like I have the strength for the single step, let alone a mile, let alone 1,000. This is all metaphorical, of course, but it is emblematic of the effort it sometimes requires to take the next step into whatever’s waiting for you.
I was talking recently with someone who was admitting that sometimes they want to throw the covers over their head and stay in bed rather than get up and face the uncertainties of another day. I can relate, and told them so. I think that a hero is not only a person who does some courageous thing–stares down an enemy, defies death, rushes into burning buildings, and so forth. Real heroes also include those everyday people who get up each morning in spite of their exhaustion, aching bodies, weary minds and go about living their lives as best they can, doing good where they are able, caring for their families or other people or their dog. Very few of these regular folks get lauded as heroes. They don’t get medals or press coverage. But sometimes the simple act of taking the next step, going one more mile is for them a heroic action.
There are times when we face significant challenges–we lose a job, a home, a loved one–and it would be understandable to simply give up and take the path of least resistance, whatever that means. But even in the midst of grief, despair, depression, sadness, fear, anxiety we manage to muster up the energy to keep going. Winston Churchill is reported as saying, “Never, never, never give up.” And mostly I agree with him. When I’ve hit a wall occasionally and am reeling from a difficult situation, I actually do give myself permission to give up. Just for a minute. Maybe even for an hour. But the practical side of myself eventually exerts itself reminding me that I can’t in fact sit there forever lamenting my situation. So eventually I get up and get back at it. But seriously, it’s okay to quit for a few minutes.
Really, though, I love this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, because for me it captures the essence of what it means to keep going even when you feel like you must stop:
You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
As I contemplate the various themes that are arising over these 40 days I think about how often I have been called upon to do the thing I thought I could not do. I am sure during his 33 years of life, particularly near the end, my friend Jesus did many things he thought he could not do. In many ways great and small, that is what perseverance is all about. We keep moving when we feel like we can’t take another step. We may not make the 1,000 miles, but we might make one more. And so it goes.