By The Rev. Tony Marciano
When I was a freshman in high school, I made the “crazy” decision to run cross-country. Crazy because I am not an athlete. I didn’t try out for the football team because I can’t throw or catch a ball. I thought I could hold my own on the cross-country team. When we ran in a regional meet against six other teams, I was the slowest runner. I was so slow that when I had a half mile left on the course, the other team was in the van, with the engine running, and the transmission in reverse ready to leave the park.
There were four other freshmen on the team. They were great athletes. When I became a sophomore, only one of the four returned to the team. In my junior year, none of the other four returned. I was getting better but was no athlete. I never earned a varsity letter. My school felt so sorry for me, they awarded me a varsity letter my senior year. I never wore the varsity sweater with the varsity letter on it. I hadn’t earned it.
What happened to the other four? Why hadn’t they stayed on the team? Why hadn’t they honed their athletic skills and earned a varsity letter? Why didn’t they continue for four years and take us to a regional victory?
Fast forward to graduate school. It was very hard for me. My mother and I were talking about how challenging school was. Her response was brilliant, “If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.” She was right about school and my cross-country experience.
I find that someone’s commitment to a new endeavor is similar to a funnel. For example, people say they want to volunteer at the Charlotte Rescue Mission. I ask them to go to our web page and click on “Volunteering.” Suddenly the pool of interested individuals shrinks. On our web page, we ask you to fill out a personal profile sheet. Again, the pool of interested individuals shrinks. Some of our volunteer programs require a meeting with our volunteer coordinator to explain the “do’s and don’ts of serving as a volunteer.” The pool continues to shrink. My mother’s words continue to echo. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
The same is true about our New Year’s resolutions. Whether it is losing weight, getting in shape, setting goals, etc. It is as if when the new car smell wears off, the interest wanes and the project is left lying on the side of the road, languishing for attention.
There is a Scripture verse that says suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, character to hope and hope does not disappoint us. If I want to give you hope, you must go through two categories to get to it.
Suffering is the state you find yourself struggling against. Endurance keeps you going when you want to quit. When you don’t quit, you move to character. That addresses the “why we do what we do.” In other words, it examines the brokenness in our lives that causes us to do those self-destructive behaviors that keep us from our potential. When we don’t quit and face the unvarnished truth of our life, we get to hope. We can’t go from suffering to hope without going through endurance and character.
My invitation to you is this; Don’t quit. Don’t be the one who leaves the funnel because it got too hard. Hang in there. Persevere. Push against the feelings to quit. You will know a sense of exhilaration when you achieve the victory on the other side.
I’ll be back in a few weeks. Until then, live well my friend.
The Rev. Tony Marciano is executive director of the Charlotte Rescue Mission. Visit www.charlotterescuemission.org for details.