Five words I want my children to live — persistence

Published 5:15 pm Friday, February 14, 2020

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By Nathan Decker

Keep on going, and the chances are that you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I never heard of anyone ever stumbling on something sitting down.”

Charles F. Kettering,

Each generation passes gives the next generation gifts, problems and habits. As a father of two, I want to pass down more than my vinyl collection or my genetic code. I hope to share what I have learned from my mistakes with my children, and my prayer is they will make new ones.

When my oldest began third grade, I started assigning him words to look up either in a dictionary or on Google. I wanted him to memorize the word and explain it to me in his own words. The first word I assigned was persistence.

In the old King James Bible, the Greek word for persistence is often translated as “long suffering.” When we persist we continue in the midst of suffering. We push on, not because we can see the goal or even know that it exists, but because of who we are — the character and grit built within our very soul.

Teddy was born with debilitating asthma. The doctor recommended that he stay indoors often, try not to exert or excite himself, and accept that much of his life was going to be lived watching other people do things through panes of glass. But he refused to accept this prescription. He did push-ups, pull-ups, went horseback riding, took up boxing, spent a great deal of time out west hunting and camping. Teddy was persistent in his pursuit of living life, so much that he became one of nation’s most colorful leaders — President Theodore Roosevelt.

Never a matter of if, but always the truth of when: Life will beat us down. Our emotions will overreact. Our thoughts will be all discombobulated. Events won’t go our way. Loved ones will betray our trust. Institutions in which we place our faith will fail. Leaders will overreach for power or will fall short of our hopes. The question is always, will we get back up? Through it all, we are called to persist.

Persist like a widow pleading her case before an unjust judge. Persist like the woman who hemorrhaged for a dozen years but pushed through the crowd to touch the hem of his cloak. Persist like Paul who refused to go down any path of theology save one that led to God’s grace. Persist like God, who’s love overwhelms each and every mistake and flaw.

We are not called to be perfect. We are not called to portray faithfulness without blemish or doubt. We are called to persist. When the suffering is long, don’t give up. Lean in. Even though we don’t know how far the finish line is beyond this hill, don’t stop the determined march forward. Persist, my brothers and sisters. As John Wesley said long ago, “God is with us yet!” Persist. After all, it’s what Jesus would do.

Be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable.”

2 Timothy 4:2