Friday, January 09, 2015

Cheerful perseverance?

Grit your way through?
For many of us the gloss and optimism of a new year dawning may have faded a little, as life's routines and demands have resumed after the holiday period.

Perhaps with all the new things we want to start it's frustrating that we find ourselves back in situations or circumstances that we wish would go away:

That difficult project at work.
That same amount of debt. 
That health issue.

As much as we want to wipe the slate clean on January 1st, in reality there are many things we are in the midst of that we have to see through. Perhaps we just need to grit our teeth and push through?
"we find ourselves back in situations or circumstances that we wish would go away"
That's certainly one approach, but it speaks to me of stress, tension and a lack of enjoyment. I picture polar explorers bravely gritting their teeth against the cold and forcing themselves on. Being resolutely focused on the destination and blocking everything else out. I had a friend at school whose dentist told him off for grinding his teeth at night. This was apparently wearing them down, and was probably an unfortunate sign of underlying tension and stress!

A favourite explorer and all round adventurer of mine is Bear Grylls. Reading the introduction to a book of his the other day a phrase jumped out at me - "cheerful perseverance". More than most people, Bear could be an authority on gritting teeth, but here he is proposing smiling through our difficulties rather than grimacing.
"More than most people, Bear could be an authority on gritting teeth"
There's no doubt that our circumstances, habits and systems of thinking rarely change overnight. Good habits take time to form, systems take time to change, and destinations take time to get to. So it's a given that we'll need to persevere at some point. Maybe it's already proving hard to keep those New Year's resolutions! We all face the temptation to give up.

I really enjoy running, but have been very tempted to give up in the middle of 10k or half marathon! About two-thirds of the way though there's usually a dip in energy and a spike in pain at which point those thoughts of giving up force their way to the front of my brain.

Once I entered a half marathon off the back of little training, blazed for ten miles then really hit the wall.. reduced to a shuffle! It was a point-to-point race along a canal so there was no option to drop out.  There were no spectators, the other competitors were all strung out, and it was particularly muddy. I had to just plod on to the end - definitely one of those grit your teeth moments.
"Maybe you're dreaming of the Shire whilst stuck in Mordor."
By contrast, when my wife Kate ran the London marathon the other year even just supporting on the sidelines was an emotional experience. The whole atmosphere was much more uplifting, even with runners clearly in pain towards the end. Every time I saw Kate she had a beaming smile, and she was being cheered on by the huge crowds the whole way round. A fantastic example of cheerful perseverance.

Maybe we tend to grit our teeth when we try and do things on our own, whilst cheerful perseverance comes easier when we have others around and allow them to support us.

The road to Mordor..
If you're a fan of The Lord of the Rings then you might agree that one of the real heroes of the story is Sam Gamgee. I think Sam is the perfect example of cheerful perseverance, especially on the road to Mordor. He sacrificially serves the ring bearer Frodo, and seemingly always stays cheerful even in the worst circumstances. We can learn a lot from Sam Gamgee I think!

Winston Churchill said "If you're going through hell, keep going". Maybe this year's not started well. Maybe you're stuck in situations which are taking time to resolve. Maybe you're dreaming of the Shire whilst stuck in Mordor.

By all means grit your teeth to push through, but perhaps there's scope for being cheerfully perseverant instead? Your circumstances may not change, but you will be changed in the midst of them. Perhaps there are those around you who are bearing secret troubles. Maybe you could be that Sam Gamgee to members of your family, colleagues in your office, or neighbours in your community?
"We can learn a lot from Sam Gamgee I think!"
In my Christian faith the central hope is that a day is coming when (in the language of The Lord of the Rings) we'll escape from Mordor and get back to the Shire for ever. God even promises us that we don't have to suffer on our own, his Spirit will be within us to encourage and cheer us - a heavenly Sam Gamgee no less!

So take heart. You're not alone. And there's a way to smile even on the road to Mordor.




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3 comments:

Wendy Roseman said...

Sam has always been, and always will be, the hero of the story for me! Lots of great truth!

Jeremy Barnes said...

agreed

Luke Strickland said...

Thanks Jeremy!