My step-father, Lawrence, was not a perfect man by any stretch of the imagination, but he excelled at one key virtue: Endurance. He simply would not quit.
When Lawrence was growing up during the Great Depression, children did not play, they worked. I heard old-timers tell about the whole Prescott family hoeing strawberries. In the age before herbicides, a hoe was the primary tool of weed control. Lawrence, his brothers Barney and Bedford, and his father would each take a row and a hoe, and attack the weeds. When each finished his row, they would turn and start down the next row.
Pat Conroy once said Charleston heat felt like you were trying to dog-paddle across a hot tub. Pat Conroy never hoed strawberries in Florida. Legend has it that my Uncle Kelly and Herman Collins were hoeing one day when Herman threw down his hoe and declared, “Kelly, there’s a revival at the Baptist Church tonight. I believe I’m going to surrender to preach, because preaching has got to be easier than this.” I don’t know if that story is true, but you get the idea.
The old-timers said they would see Lawrence’s dad at the far end of a row. Barney, the oldest, would be about half-way down his row. Bedford, the youngest boy, would be leaning on his hoe, taking a breather. Lawrence would have already made the turn and started back down the next row. A boy of no more than ten years-old, he could out-hoe all comers.
I experienced Lawrence’s endurance first hand. He believed in starting early and working until you couldn’t see anymore. If we were working cows, he would say, “I believe we can get this last bunch done before dark.” Many a time we wound up working in the dark, using flashlights to see what we were doing. All of us would be dead tired – except Lawrence.
Heaven help you if something got lost. Lawrence believed in searching until something was found. I remember a piece of a tractor fell off in a hundred-acre pasture (Yes, pieces of tractors fall off. The Buckhorn Ranch tractors shed parts like a duck sheds water). We rode up and down that hundred acres in the truck, got out and walked, until we found it.
Lawrence loved Florida Gator football. We had season tickets and Lawrence believed in getting his money’s worth. In the 70’s, Gator football could be right tedious. No matter how bad we were getting trounced, Lawrence would stay until the bitter end.
I’ll admit his endurance drove me crazy when I was young. It wasn’t until my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease that I realized how important endurance really is. Alzheimer’s robs a person of life inch by inch. As my mother began to slip away, Lawrence endured. “For better or worse, in sickness and in health” were not just words, but rows to hoe. Lawrence made sure my mother was cared for to the end of his life.
I’m not sure any relationship survives without endurance. Endurance is not blindly doing a task; it is carrying a load with the sure knowledge that this is a task that must be accomplished. In our world of instant gratification, endurance is in short-supply. It’s easier to go buy a new part than search for an old one. It’s easier to quit early and leave work till the next day than to work in the dark. It’s easier to end a friendship than to work through the tensions.
In my line of work, I see people quit on God because their relationship with him gets too hard. They pray and don’t get what they want. Someone in leadership disappoints them. Life gets busy. People stop engaging God. The relationship grows stale. What strikes me is people understand they need to love a spouse for better or worse, but they think their relationship with God should just be for better.
Jesus did not quit on you. He endured misunderstanding, abuse, exclusion and death on the cross he didn’t deserve. He hoed to the end of the row and then some.
Give God the same endurance he gave you. When your relationship with him isn’t all you want it to be, hoe to the end of the row, make the turn, hoe some more. You’ll find God waiting for you.