A Recipe for Endurance


Let’s not get tired of doing good, because in time we’ll have a harvest if we don’t give up.

So then, let’s work for the good of all whenever we have an opportunity,

and especially for those in the household of faith.”

Galatians 6:9 (Common English Bible)

Mrs. Lois Williams is one of my heroes in the household of faith. A quiet, strong woman who had her fair share of dangers, toils, and snares, Lois was strong and wise, quick-witted and thoughtful in her opinions and her actions, and one who could be counted upon to provide one of the dueling  Dutch ovens of German potato salad for church potlucks.  Equally adept at solving calculus or knitting problems, Lois holds a place in my heart because she was predictable in so many of her actions and responses in the world, in every way.  She had habits, but she was also open to newness. She had strong opinions, but was equally ready to have a vigorous conversation and have her opinions modified or even changed.  Like many of her generation, Lois saw a lot of changes in the world, and experienced a great deal of unsought change.  Lois Smith Williams joined the Church Triumphant at the age of 99.

Lois was famous for saying, “Everything in moderation.”  It’s a good motto, but it breaks down fairly quickly. There are some times and places and circumstances where moderation is not called for. I can think of many times when a moderate response might be confused for failing to take a stand, or failing to be strong and bold in the face of something that puts others at great risk. Those are not times for moderate responses.

However, for running a marathon, forming a habit, or addressing anything that calls for endurance, I think Lois was correct.

Months of a pandemic. Challenges to health, livelihood, socializing, access, gathering in community, life itself.   It’s the beginning of June, and although some parts of our lives in Indiana are “back on track”  (that’s the state’s motto for return following the stay at home orders), many parts of life are not, nor will they be for quite some time. Experts in virology and infectious disease have said this week that, here in the United States, we’re only at the beginning of dealing with the novel coronavirus. And, in other news, while it may feel encouraging to some to sense a shifting tide of social change as issues of racism seem to be in the forefront of many minds, hundreds of years of injustice will not be dismantled overnight.

Nearly everywhere I turn, I’m witnessing exhaustion.  Whether you’re grappling in your context with navigating your congregation’s return to in-person gatherings and especially worship, or you’re having early or life-long conversations about racism, or both, or other important things, I think Lois’ motto is pertinent: Everything in moderation.  Even the motto needs to be adjusted:  Most everything in moderation, although that isn’t as catchy.

I don’t want to be another voice in our current context telling folks what to do. Your mileage may vary. Your context and your experience are not the same as mine.  I do think that anything that takes time and patience is about pacing, persistence, patience.  We certainly understand the marathon/sprint analogy.

Endurance is abut keeping on keeping on.  It’s about knowing when to have one’s foot on the gas (metaphorically) and knowing when it’s time to coast or to brake.

Endurance is about recognizing that one’s voice has gotten so whiny that it’s preventing us from hearing the voice of someone else, which might resemble the still, small voice of God.

Endurance might look like late night walks in the dark, or sleeping in once in awhile. Listening and speaking. Work and rest, activism and reflection.

Stay the course.