Steadfast

(For this week’s exposition, I wanted to post this piece that I wrote about three years ago. Enjoy.)

“Indeed we count them blessed who endure.  You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord- that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful”

–          James 5:11 NKJV

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Perseverance is a deeper subject than it seems.  It is more than simply “toughing it out.” Sometimes, even oftentimes, gritting one’s proverbial teeth is not enough.  Perseverance may seem to be an inert, even passive concept, but it is rather the opposite.  Continuing in one direction is not to set a course and then do nothing; perseverance is more like a battle than a plotted course.  In life there is hardship.  Plans fail.  People fail.  Ideas fail.  Setbacks are too numerous to list.  Perseverance is holding on tightly to what you learned in the light, even when it is dark all around.  It is buffeting the advancing swarms of despair and self-pity.  It is fencing with rationalizations to depart from what one knows to be good.  It is wrestling with the desire to give up and go somewhere else.

It is a hard thing, for surely everyone has heard of the concept of “attrition”, which is the steady wearing down of an opponent using third-degree methods.  A steady trickle of water will eventually wear through a concrete barrier, a steady flow of wind will eventually carve out a mountainside, and, when he has no source of replenishing, a steady flow of setbacks will defeat a man.

A few weeks ago at jiu-jitsu, I found myself engaged in multiple bouts with a three-striped purple belt (a rank higher than my own).  I was defeated many times by this ‘foe’, and yet he wanted to continue fighting me.  My opponent had much more experience than I had, and was several years older as well.  He was quick, he was strong, and he knew his technique.  After losing to him several times, and being challenged by him yet again, I accepted.  As we proceeded to engage, I lunged at my opponent and he deflected my attacks, and soon I found myself first inside the confines of his guard, next, on the inside of a very tight choke called an arm triangle.  In a moment of defiance, I slowly twisted my head enough so I could look my attacker in the eyes, and through a tightly compressed throat said to him “I can breathe longer than you can choke me.”

He then proceeded to tighten his already vise-like grip on my throat, as he flexed all of the muscles in his arms and chest, directing their strength toward my throat.  My carotid arteries were mostly closed off by the pressure of his hold, and my throat was only occasionally open enough to give me any sort of air.  I held my composure and put my chin square with my chest, attempting to keep some small passage of air open.  His grip increased in intensity; I only focused on staying conscious.  He choked me for a good minute and a half, employing all of his strength.  Just as I felt the edges of awareness starting to fade around me, his grip loosened, then broke.  My opponent had spent all of his strength on his attack and had nothing left in reserve.  No longer able to resist me, I rolled from under his grip, mounted, and proceeded to submit him in a conventional triangle choke.

Was what I did necessary?  Probably not.  It was just training, and I could have tapped out when his arms closed around my throat.  However, it seemed very symbolic to me to defeat an opponent more skilled than myself through patient endurance.  I have heard it said that one cannot win a war of attrition because it slowly wears one down over time.  Certainly it is true that when confronted with steady, constant opposition, the thing to do is to deliver a decisive blow to the source, and thus be saved from wearing down.  However, in life, one cannot always get to the source of opposition, and hardship.  So what then, is my conclusion?  In the strength of God, with perseverance I shall defeat attrition.

Be encouraged, friends.

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