Thursday, March 20, 2008

When Perseverance Goes Bad

Is perseverance sometimes a bad thing?

Well, if you use the term “perseverance” correctly, maybe not. According to Dictionary.com, perseverance is “steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., esp. in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.” Furthermore, the word is “regularly used in a favorable sense.” The idea, then, is that if you’re persevering toward some destination, you’re striving for something worthwhile.

But what if you’re mistaken?

I started thinking of some of the persistent souls I’ve seen on the news. People who dangle themselves in a glass box from a crane and see how long they can sit inside it, that sort of thing. Their only goals are getting attention and maybe ending up in a record book. So are they persevering—or just plain nuts?

I went to Guinness World Records online and did a search on the word “longest.” I came up with all sorts of interesting results. For example, Wesley Pemberton has the world’s longest leg hair. It measured five inches on August 10, 2007. (My mother’s birthday. Just think, while I was goofing off, partying with my family, Wesley was making history.) Maybe this isn’t a good illustration of perseverance, however. Wesley probably didn’t have much choice in how long his leg hair grew.

But then there’s the longest tattoo session, which “lasted for 43 hr 50 min, achieved by Stephen Grady and Melanie Grieveson.” Now, that required some endurance! Or questionable judgment. Perhaps both. Same goes for Bernie Baker, who at age 66 was the oldest known male stripper. Sure, he may have been persevering when other, younger male strippers were giving up. But the question is—why? Worthy goal? Probably not.

I’m bringing this up because I don’t want to be another Bernie Baker. I want my destination to be worthy and real, and I want to go about getting there the right way.

I'm on a journey this year, and I've decided to invite you all along. For a long time I hesitated to let you know about the fleece I'm laying before God this year, because I was afraid I would discourage you. But it's really not a discouraging journey.

Remember my verse for 2008: "Show me your intentions so I will understand you more fully and do exactly what you want me to do." As a part of praying that, I've asked God to show me things so clearly that I can do things differently next year. I believe he will either let something so encouraging happen with my writing that I will know I'm on the right track. Then I will stop torturing myself with doubts. Or he may show me it's okay to take some time off. He may give me a new direction for writing--or for living.

Wherever he takes me, it will be good. When you run a marathon, you have to pace yourself, and I'm excited to discover whether God's going to tell me to speed up and head for the finish, or slow down and enjoy the scenery.

I'll let you know how it goes.