“let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” — Hebrews 12:1 ASV
When I was in grade school and high school, I ran cross-country and track. As I prepared for each competition, I remember keeping this verse in mind. As a distance runner, I understood that running the race wasn’t about sprinting. It was about finding a steady pace and keeping it, pushing through–through the fatigue, the aching legs, the pounding chest, the side aches. I found a rhythm. I focused my eyes on a set distance in front of me. I pressed forward. Then, when I got a few hundred yards from the finish line, with determination, I would pick up my pace and push through to the finish. The reward sometimes was winning. But, more often, it was the joy of finishing and knowing I had persevered.
The translation of this verse I read before each race used the word “perseverance” — not patience. Those two words carry different meanings for me. I see perseverance as pushing through or continuing on through a difficult task or period of time. I see patience as the mindset of waiting for something or someone without being restless, of having a sort of peaceful expectation of things to come.
I see the covenant of marriage as one of great joy, but also one that includes seasons of patience and seasons of perseverance. As a young woman, I believed marriage meant unending bliss. Life with a man who loved me deeply. And, “happily ever after.” Certainly, it has been life with a man who loves me deeply. Certainly we have bliss, but “unending bliss” is not the way I would characterize marriage–at least after 23 years! And, the happily ever after–well, we haven’t gotten to the “ever after” chapter yet.
Instead of running a long distance race alone, marriage is more like running a three-legged race. Arms entwined, each of us with one leg in the burlap bag and one leg free, trying to keep pace as we run or walk down the field toward the finish line. Sometimes–or often–falling and needing to figure out how to get up and run again–all the time remaining patient, bound together and hopefully, not getting too muddy.
In falling down and figuring how to get back up while bound together, we need patience. In getting to the finish line, after multiple falls, we need perseverance as we fatigue. It would be easier to just throw off the burlap bag, untangle our arms and legs, get up and sprint down the field alone. But, what joy comes from that?
Despite the muddy field before us, we find joy and bliss. We find those in the midst of figuring out how to get back up and head down the field together. We find those in keeping pace and holding tightly to one another. And, even though my husband and I don’t share our faith, I find joy and bliss in our marriage in looking to Christ, the “author and perfecter of our faith”–and of our marriage.
So, we sacrifice the sprint to the finish and “run the race that is set before us,” together. I like that story–that journey toward “happily ever after”–better.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
-1 Timothy 6:6-7
Our culture makes it easy to want things now — credit cards, no down payments on homes. You name it, we can get it now. We know where that has gotten us as a society. But, we saw it in our kids, too. Wanting that item they saw on TV or the item their best friend just got; asking for things while shopping because the cool packaging caught their eye. Everywhere they turned the message they received was “you need this,” “buy me,” or something similar–a message that made them want what they didn’t have and perceive that they needed something more.
We struggled to figure out how to teach our kids to wait–to not buy on impulse. To be content.
Our recipe was simple: A piece of paper, a magnet, and a refrigerator. It helped all of us learn about waiting and making thoughtful decisions.
So here is how the refrigerator-note solution worked. If the kids wanted something, they had to write it down on a piece of paper and put the date on it. We then posted the item on the fridge. It stayed there for two weeks. If they still wanted the item at the end of two weeks, they could buy it– assuming they had enough money.
The result? Our kids rarely ended up buying the items posted. I don’t remember where we learned that trick, but I am grateful for it. It helped the kids and, over the years, it has helped us, too. Nothing like writing down that you want a $15,000 car and posting it on the fridge for two weeks — only to decide that you really didn’t need it or want it after all.
This works for other decisions in our lives, too. When prayerfully considering family choices, I found that posting the prayer where I could take a moment to consider it throughout the day helped. I find I jump in and make life’s decisions on my own. It feels better to do rather than to consider thoughtfully and prayerfully. I think if I’m doing and moving forward that is good. But, of course, my spur-of-the-moment, shoot-from-the-hip choices, haven’t always been what a prayerful and well-considered decision may have yielded.
Being content with what we have and learning to wait will always be a struggle. We desire. It is part of being human. But, learning what makes us desire and act impulsively–and then finding ways to change those impulses honors God’s desire for our lives.
Note: I re-posted this from my old blog. And, I just saw that Don Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz and founder of The Mentoring Project, started a series today on commercialism that fits nicely with the theme of impulse buying that I touch on here. You might check out his post.