Tag Archives: perseverance

Eyes on the Prize

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I love me a new year, but I like it better one week in.

The starting gun fires, the race commences, and some yahoos foolishly sprint to the lead for a brief moment until reality reminds them that they are in over their heads and they fade into oblivion. That is when the race really begins. Once the crowd thins and the race gets real, the true competitors search for their pace and ask themselves important questions about their hearts, minds, souls, and strength. That is what happens about one week into a brand new year, and I want to be a true competitor in this race called life.

So here we go.

I want to look deep into my soul this year. Will I avoid the unsettling quiet required to explore the frightening corners of my own heart?

I want to spend myself on others this year. Will I allow fear, pride, and privilege to keep me away from confronting the injustice in my own community?

I want to remember important stories from the past this year. Will I let the sirens pull me mindlessly forward and forget the treasures found in old experiences?

I want to push my boundaries this year so that I grow. Will I permit the deception of comfort and routine lull me into complacency, or will I have the courage required to test uncharted waters?

I know the right answers to all of these questions, but the breathless pace and the long road ahead demand that I maintain focus, avoid distraction, and keep my eyes on the prize.

It is time to settle in and do the work.

Your Time Will Come

A friend introduced me to the music of Johnny Clegg several years ago, and I am eternally grateful.  Clegg’s official website describes him as a “dancer, anthropologist, singer, songwriter, academic, activist and French knight” and that he “campaigned against the injustice of apartheid South Africa and been instrumental in putting the new South Africa on the map as a cultural ambassador.”  Pretty cool, right?

Clegg performed at Pepperdine last weekend, and one of my favorite moments in the concert came when Clegg referred to Nelson Mandela’s world-changing endurance to introduce the song “Your Time Will Come.”  Clegg said Mandela taught us that to live with such patience you must believe that everything will be alright in the end, and if it isn’t, then it isn’t the end.

The lyrics to “Your Time Will Come” are mostly in Zulu with an English ending.  Since my Zulu is a little rusty, here are the lyrics fully translated into English:

You were lying, do not tell lies.
You told lies, trying to mislead me,
so that I would give up my faith and hope.
That is what you said — you said that our future is hopeless,
our tomorrow is bleak, you were lying,
trying to mislead us.
No can do! We will never relinquish our faith.

Chorus:
Everything will be all right —
It’s just when this will be, we cannot know.
Everything will come right, I tell you friend.
Do not throw away your hope.
Me holding on one side, you holding on the other side
together we will pull through,
you and me, you and me.

My spirits are down,
I say to you child of my aunt, you have caused me great fear.
You told lies, trying to mislead me,
so that I would give up my faith and hope.
That is what you said — you said that our future is hopeless,
our tomorrow is bleak, you were lying,
trying to mislead us.
No can do! We will never relinquish our faith.

Chorus:

Everything will be all right —
It’s just when this will be, we cannot know.
Everything will come right, I tell you friend.

It will be all right my friend, I’m telling you.
Come true courage, for it is you who gives
life and takes it away,
me on this side, you on the other,
we will hold it together.
Don’t listen to the lies of my compatriot.
We will be victorious in the end, just you and me,
just you and me.

I saw the Berlin Wall fall
I saw Mandela walk free
I saw a dream whose time has come
Change my history — so keep on dreaming.

Dream on dreamer, dreamer.

In the best of times and in the worst of times
gotta keep looking at the skyline
not at a hole in the road
Your time will come, sister, your time will come
nobody’s gonna rush history, we have to ease it along
— just ease it along.

Some Things Are Never Easy

Hell and hill are remarkably similar words, or at least that is my recurring thought as I run what I call “the hill” two mornings a week. To call it a hill is an insult to Drescher Mountain. It is a monster.

From my house, the run begins with a 350’ drop in elevation over a winding two-thirds of a mile, which is a perfectly fine way to begin a 5k run. The kicker, of course, is that it ends with a grueling two-thirds of a mile climb up same mountain.

It was three summers ago when I decided that this hill/mountain/monster must be conquered. I’m not sure why. Temporary insanity leads the polls. But decide I did, and after it I went—slowly. I counted nine fire hydrants along the path, so the strategic plan was to conquer the mountain one fire hydrant at a time.

The first fire hydrant was okay because a person could reach it with a good spit from somewhat level ground. The second wasn’t too bad, but the third made me cry. Four, five, and six required therapy, and I cannot even begin to describe seven and eight—those fire hydrants worship Satan. Fire hydrant number nine and the final stretch run to my house were bad only in the sense that after fire hydrant eight I displayed a remarkable resemblance to a Will Ferrell crying scene.

But I did it. Conquered the mountain.

I’m leaving out an important part of the story. All along, my plan was to do more than conquer the mountain, presuming that continuing to conquer the mountain would lead to some beautiful day when running up that blasted hill would be easy. I thought that was rational.

Rational or not, it was wrong. It has been years since that first glorious victory and it is not even close to easy. It is hard, every single time.

After reflecting on this somewhat depressing reality on yet another morning run, a new thought arrived: Maybe some things aren’t meant to be easy. And maybe that’s okay.

Getting up early for a difficult job, battling a chronic illness, losing loved ones, or even running up a mountain—maybe it would be an insult to the thing itself if it ever became easy.

I’m going to mention my friend, Stephanie, again because she told me about a line in the play Rabbit Hole that compared grief to a brick that you carry around in your pocket: The brick never leaves, but you get to where you don’t notice it so much and, in fact, when you do notice you realize that you don’t want it to go away.

Maybe that is what I am learning today. Some things aren’t meant to be easy, but that’s okay. If they were easy, you might forget to appreciate something worthwhile.

The thought arrived somewhere around infernal fire hydrant eight this week that maybe perseverance is not sticking with something until you conquer it. Maybe perseverance is better understood as sticking with something even when you never conquer it.

There is a famous chapter in the Christian Bible all about people who did that very thing, and they called it “faith.”

Maybe I could rename my morning nemesis Faith Hill, but that would just sound silly.