I’ve have persistence on my mind a lot lately since my women’s group discussed it last week. The week before that we discussed diligence. The definitions of both surprised me. I have always thought of these as inherently good things. Being persistent and determined and diligent seem like good qualities. But their definitions are actually neutral. Neither definition means striving towards something good. “Persistence: A constant effort at whatever is undertaken.”
Hmmm… a constant effort at whatever you undertake. In other words, you could persist at the wrong thing. You could be diligent in something that’s not in line with God’s will for your life.
Some things are more obvious. One example we discussed was persistence in marriage. What if there are two things you want to persist in that completely oppose one another? For instance, persisting in raising a Christian kid, vs. persisting in a marriage where the spouse actively teaches atheism? Or even just persisting in raising a loving kid when your spouse teaches anger, hatred, or abuse? I have seen people persist in marriage when it was obvious (at least to me) that what they should be persisting in the well-being of their child.
For me, what I persist in is often much more subtle. I am guilty at persisting at the wrong thing. What’s worse, I don’t even realize I’ve chosen to persist in something until my priorities have gotten so off track that they force me to stop and reevaluate. For instance, I am embarrassed to admit how often my to-do list is where I’m most diligent, rather than my relationship with my family or God.
Yesterday I was driving down a road with stop lights every block. I could see far enough up ahead that 4 sets of lights were visible. I suddenly realized a car behind me was following really close to my car. I was going a little over the speed limit, but I guess he was in a hurry. He zipped around me and gunned it, tires squealing a bit as he zoomed past. He accelerated quickly. Towards… a red light. He slammed on his brakes and I avoided eye contact, pretending not to notice his stupidity.
But how often am I doing the same thing? Speeding through my day thinking I’m going somewhere more important than where I am right then? Racing through the doctor’s appointment, to get to the store, to pick up the prescription, so I can get home and make the air duct cleaning appt before the groupon expires, then on to the laundry, then to clean the kitchen so I can make dinner, so I can get the kids showered and to bed on time so we can be out the door by 6:50 again the next morning. Oh, and did I sign that permission slip and send in that money? Whew! I often feel like I’m speeding endlessly towards, well, a dead end. A stop light.
It might annoy me at first, but maybe a stop light is exactly what I need. Who cares if I’m diligent and persistent in all these things? Particularly if my kids are nearby. Still wanting to spend time with me, still chasing after my attention, still asking to play? What I need to be persistent in is my relationships. Lest I am speeding by them so fast I have to slam on my brakes and hope everyone pretends not to notice MY stupidity. “Silly woman…. spinning her wheels cleaning a house no one ever sees.”