Seven years ago I posed myself a question that I would like to share with you as you begin this new year. It was sometime in April 2010 that I was watching my youngest two boys (then ages five and seven) playing basketball in our driveway with two of my seven year old’s friends. I was working in my wood shop (which is in the garage) and since the garage door was open I was able to set my project aside and just watch the kids playing for a while. This is what I saw: my five year old was taking his turn and could not throw the ball high enough – even though the basket was lowered to eight feet. He would shoot the basketball, which would invariably fall short, and say “Let me try again!” So the other kids would give him the ball and he would try again, the ball would fall short, and he would say, “Let me try again!” Now reread these last two sentences a dozen times.
At first I was interested to see how long the other kids would let him keep trying. But then I began wondering how long my young son would want to keep trying. And then I started wondering, if that was me, how long would I keep trying? As adults, we all know the definition of insanity: “To do the same thing over and over expecting different results.” As an adult, watching my child brought this to mind. I knew that he could try to shoot that ball a hundred times but simply did not have the strength to score. But I didn’t think he was insane – despite the fact that he was clearly expecting to score any shot now…
And that got me thinking. Why didn’t I as a parent want to go out and say to my son, “Hey fella, you can’t make a basket right now no matter how hard you try. It’s crazy for you to keep trying.” Instead, I was proud of him for his continued effort – I was hoping he would want to try again.
Eventually he did give up without scoring a goal, or even hitting the rim for that matter. But I knew his efforts were neither crazy nor wasted – despite the fact that his desired accomplishment was never achieved. He was building character and getting healthy exercise. And, just as importantly, his friends were learning patience.
Sometimes we as adults try something, do not “at first succeed,” and therefore we assume that we would be crazy to do that again. And maybe in “sanely” quitting rather than sticking with the old proverbial “try, try again” attitude, we are missing the point. Just as an earthly father like me knows that there are merits to having eight foot basketball standards in a small child’s driveway, isn’t it possible that our heavenly Father knows that there are merits to calling us to continually confront a challenging obstacle with the same old graces he has outlined over and over in his Word?
I am particularly reminded of Jesus’ words in Luke 17:4. He said, “If your brother sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, “I repent,’ forgive him.” If the world were to watch this kind of persistence from its open garage, surely it would count the forgiving person insane. Yet that repetitious exercise is precisely what we are called to.
How is God calling you to exercise the same graces, over and over and over again – perhaps with nothing to show for it? Or could we be looking for the wrong things to come from our perseverance? Do we want baskets instead of character; two points instead of muscles? This year as you commit yourself to a repetitious and often seemingly unrewarded obedience, won’t you join me in praying that “the Lord would direct our hearts into God’s love and the perseverance of Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 3:5).