We have a saying around our house: “It’s a great life, if you don’t weaken.” However, these days, it’s often followed by the confession: “But I’m beginning to weaken.” Aging requires more perseverance than we ever imagined.
After two years of pandemic, political gridlock, vaccinations. mask wearing, isolation, virtual learning, over-crowded hospitals, deaths, and uncertainty, most of us expected that we would turn the corner toward normalcy at the beginning of 2022. We haven’t and it looks like there may be no quick end in sight. How long?
On the PBS Newshour last week, several people were asked what word they would use to describe what we might need most in 2022. The first person, I think, hit the nail on the head. His answer was “ENDURANCE.”
Endurance is the ability to stand pain, distress, fatigue over time. To endure is to harden, to hold out, to last, to undergo difficult conditions and still hold fast.
Once in my high school speech class, I gave a speech in which I quoted the English poet John Dryden:
I’m sore wounded but not slain
I’ll lay me down and bleed a while
And then rise up to fight again.
That’s a good description of endurance that I’ve never forgotten.
My friend Mark, who has endured much, gave me a picture that hangs in my office of a crane with a half-swallowed frog in his mouth. Meanwhile the frog is choking the crane to keep from being swallowed whole. The caption under the drawing reads, “Never Give Up!”
So how do we endure in the long days ahead? First, is the awareness that we are not alone. Jesus, who himself “endured the cross” is with us and understands our plight as we make our way through these uncertain times. And then we must share that hope and trust with the discouraged.
It helps to remember how we and those who have gone before us have endured in other circumstances. I often think of my dad and the long years that he cared for my mother. And I think of Victor Frankl, the Jewish psychiatrist, who survived the Nazi death camps. He noted those who endured were those who found a larger meaning for their lives, especially in helping their fellow prisoners who were also sick and starving.
Endurance is strengthened when we look to the future with hope in God and his grace rather than having specific expectations. As we have seen, there is much about COVID that is unpredictable and that we must adapt to as it happens — one day at a time without the expectation that any of us have complete knowledge.
Encouragement to endure, surprisingly, can be found by looking back. My favorite children’s book for adults is “The Boy, The Mole, The Fox, and The Horse.” By Charlie Mackesy. It is the story of four unlikely friends making their way together on the long journey home. Close to the end of the story, the boy looks at the road ahead and sighs, “We have such a long way to go.” To which the horse replies, “Yes, but look how far we’ve come.”
The words of a familiar hymn are my prayer for us at the beginning of a new year: “Lord, hither by thy help we’ve come; and we hope by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.” Amen.
John Paul Carter is a resident of East Parker County and a regular contributor to the Weatherford Democrat.