Daily Archives: April 4, 2015

The Discipline of Determination

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image by Daniel Eskridge
Of all the experiences in my life, my time at Wheaton College as an undergrad is high on the list of the most formative. My time at Wheaton began with an 18-day wilderness trip called Vanguard, truly unique in its impact on me at every level. At that time, Coach Harvey Chrouser’s influence on the Vanguard program was still strongly evident. There was great emphasis placed on perseverance, going beyond what felt comfortable, and strong character.

I had the great privilege a few years later to be Coach Chrouser’s typist and editor for his book about Honey Rock. I never knew President V. Raymond Edman, but I felt like I got an insider view as I read, re-read, edited, and formatted Chrouser’s book.

As I considered my topic for today, Down syndrome seemed the logical choice. But, I’ve written a lot about Down syndrome, and will no doubt write more. It just isn’t today’s topic. I feel a strong desire to write about Difficulties today.

I realized that in my collection of aphorisms to live by, several of them deal with how to live in the light of difficulties.
Longfellow’s poem, The Rainy Day
Matthew 6:34 about focusing on this day right here
A poem my dad used to quote: Don’t You Quit
M. Scott Peck’s opening words in The Road Less Traveled:

“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

President (“Prexy”) Edman wrote a total of 19 books. I found a selection from “The Disciplines of Life” this morning that said it well:

Young persons sometimes ask Mr. [Henry] Ford, ‘How can I make my life a success?”—as if anyone could answer that question half as well as the one who asks it. But occasionally Mr. Ford does give a valuable tip, even if at the moment the young person receiving it fails to appreciate it. One such tip would be—‘If you start a thing, finish it.‘ It sounds rather familiar, a piece of old-fashioned advice—but it is part of an engineer’s design for living—finish it!
 ” ‘Yes,’ one says, ‘but the thing may not be worth finishing.’ Of course, when he says ‘finish it,’ Mr. Ford isn’t thinking about the thing at all, he is thinking about you—you, Miss Maiden, and you, Sir Youth. In the preparatory time of life the real job is not what you are working on, but what it is doing to you. You start it with a great gush of interest—you miss your meals for it—then suddenly it goes stale—and you quit. Or you find that your plan is wrong—and you quit. And all that you have as profit from your effort is the knowledge of how to quit. ‘Well,’ you say, ‘the thing wasn’t worth it!’ Quite probably, but you are, and that’s the whole point. (emphasis added)

Difficulties abound in our lives. If it’s not our own lack of planning, stupidity, or mistakes plaguing us, it’s other people and their ideas about how things should be. Difficulties come like the weather, literally, sometimes. When it snows, Kepler is adamant about not walking on the snowy sidewalk, even if there is just a whisper of snow there. Events get rained out. Tornadoes destroy towns and lives.

Accepting that difficulties are part and parcel of the journey of life allows us to put our attention onto what to do in the face of them. Resisting difficulties doesn’t change anything at all, least of all, us. As Mr. Ford said, “The real job is not what you are working on, but what it is doing to you.” Our real job is not to eliminate all the difficulties (although when we can, it’s obviously a good idea), but to recognize that each of us is worth pressing through the difficulty, allowing the process to shape and strengthen us.

And that, Miss Maiden and Sir Youth, is my message for us today. We are worth it. Difficulties will come. Let us press into them and know that we are being shaped into something stronger as we do.

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