There’s a fine line between perseverance and stubbornness. Sometimes, painstaking work over time can be an investment that yields benefits in the long term. I’m thinking of the civil rights leaders who spent decades offering up their own blood, sweat and tears before seeing any real substantial movement in their struggle for human dignity. Whether or not they lived to see it, these faithful women and men had set their sights on a goal that would change the world.
Not all of our objectives are so worthy of sacrifice. If I need proof of this, all I have to do is read back through my journals and papers from years past. I recently came across a sheet of notebook paper, on which my high school-aged self had written a list. The list’s title was: Things that will be accomplished this year. Some of these very-important things probably did get accomplished that year. Most did not.
Still, this to-do list from high school serves an important purpose: It reminds me of how limited my understanding is of what is truly important in any given moment. After all, in my senior year I changed my diet, began to exercise and shed 70 pounds in three months. This was the greatest joy of my teenage years. Yet, nothing about weight or health appears on my list of things to accomplish.
This is easier to see in retrospect. It’s hard to say which things that seem so important to me now are actually of enduring significance. Mostly likely, many of the areas of my life today where I stress myself out the most will seem, in ten years, fairly trivial. On the other hand, there will almost certainly be matters that I don’t give much thought to now, but that with hindsight are revealed to be the most pressing questions of my life. If only I could see these things now, rather than in retrospect!
Yet, there may be a blessing in my blindness. Knowing that I cannot see clearly, I find encouragement to turn my life over to the care of God. Rather than relying on my own sense of sight, I can seek the guiding light of Jesus. I have learned from experience that he will shine on the path that I am called to walk, whether I fully understand it at present, or not.
How do you discern when your personal priorities are in line with truth? Are you able to experience the present as a gift to be offered up to God, rather than as a problem to be solved by your own determined will? What are some ways that the Spirit has guided you in directions that you would not have chosen for yourself, yet which turned out to be precisely the way you were meant to go?