I recently moved a little turtle sculpture from my knick-knack shelf to my desk. My daughter’s creation from a long past vacation Bible school has been repaired multiple times over the years. Chunks of clear glue border each plastic eye and rock leg. Her turtle reminds me daily of Aesop’s famous tortoise.
Aesop’s folktale of the rabbit and the turtle describes a race between unequal competitors. The rabbit speeds ahead then decides in his over-confidence and self-absorption to nap. We know the end of the story: the little turtle steadfastly plods toward the finish line and passes the sleeping rabbit. The turtle emerges as the winner not only of the race but also as an example of focus and perseverance.
Rabbit and turtle tendencies rise up in our own lives, also. The rabbit succumbed to the natural leaning toward immediate gratification. The turtle, on the other hand, sustained his slow and steady pace to win the race. I have rabbit tendencies. Despite my long-term goals, the day’s plans can easily be thwarted by a new novel or tv movie or blog hopping!
Ugh! My frustration mounts when the evening draws near and I realize that my rabbit-side dominated the hours of the day. The distractions, though, are not the problem. It’s my passive response to them that draws me away from my plan. I’m learning to be more attentive to my choices. When the finish line is the focus, I am more turtle-like in my concentration. I am further motivated to press on when I then have the clarity of my next steps toward the completion of the race.
We can take great comfort from Ecclesiastes 9:11 which tells us that “the race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong.” Stuff distracts and happens to us all. Those who finish the race strong are the ones who persevere with their eyes fixed on our long term goals.
Our primary goal is to “finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given — the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24). The race plays out differently in each of our lives. Our roles and giftings are different. We teach, write, lead, encourage, paint, run, garden, cook, and more. We all have activities and commitments that we’ve undertaken. We just need to move forward with the tenacity of our little turtle!
We can develop this perseverance.
At all times, grow your patience with a long-term perspective toward completing the race. It remains a constant prayer to develop perseverance in this life. Each of the small steps move us toward the end of the race. Zeal and perseverance will carry us until we hear “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
“With the assurance of God’s abiding presence we can live the present and anticipate the future.” ~Luther E. Smith, Jr.
Practical Tips and Tools
Maintain the two-step process:
1 – The first step toward endurance is to identify the finish line. What does the final goal for your current project look like? Is it pinpoint focused to help minimize the distractions of immediate gratification? If not, pause and fine tune!
2 – The next step is to break down the project. The day-to-day faithfulness of doing the simple, mundane tasks is the heart of perseverance.
- Choose one huge task that is burdening you and define the end goal
- What are the steps to complete the task?
- Write down action items to complete the steps (for example: call someone, do internet search, or even buy a new tool)
- Do one step this week…even if it is tracking down the name of someone (research counts)
- Tell someone (accountability is huge!)