Don't give up on God

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By Nancy Kennedy

When my youngest daughter was 15 she began an unrelenting campaign to pierce her eyebrow.

She once handed me seven pages of documented Internet research, complete with a list of "35 Reasons to Say Yes." ("It will not harm any living creature." "I won't wear the eyebrow ring to any formal occasion." "It is better than piercing my tongue.")

I found it amusing and I admired her persistence - until the Day of the Pringles.

We were at the market and as she followed me up and down the aisles, she jabbered non-stop about getting her eyebrow pierced.

I was calm up to the last aisle when her "It's the same as you dying your hair," set me off and I grabbed a can of Pringles from a shelf and threw it - in front of God, the guy stocking potato chips and everybody.

The can exploded all over the place - I exploded all over the place, flailing my arms and emitting guttural sounds.

People tip-toed around me, the potato chip guy froze and my daughter inched her way over to the magazine rack while I knelt down to pick up Pringles "shrapnel."

It was not my most shining hour.

When I got home, I called my mother who laughed and reminded me of my own relentless two-year campaign, starting in fourth grade, to wear stockings.

"Just suck it up and drive on," she said. Or in other words, persevere.

I prayed for perseverance once. I'd been reading the book of Hebrews where it says to "run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (Hebrews 12:1). At the time, all I could picture was crossing a finish line in triumph, my fists in the air and a medal around my neck as the crowd roared. I win!

So, I prayed for perseverance and got a daughter who wanted her eyebrow pierced. She also wanted a tattoo, blue hair and to go to Daytona for spring break or take a bus to Seattle.

She also once poured blue food coloring into a full jar of mayonnaise and dumped a box of "washable" markers in a tub full of soapy water. I could go on, but space limits me.

"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides," wrote the apostle James. "You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way" (James 1:2-3, The Message).

As the late Gilda Radner used to say, "It's always something." Something that either breaks your heart and makes you want to quit, like a debilitating illness or a difficult spouse, or something that's merely an irritant, like a child who never seems to lose her steam in her attempt to wear you down.

Sometimes it's a lot of somethings coming from all sides, forcing your faith-life into the open, revealing its true colors. That's when the temptation to quit the faith is most enticing - when the bills multiply and the bank account doesn't. When your children only know one speed: turbo. When you try to share your faith and nobody cares. Or you find pot in your kid's room or it becomes too much of a hassle to get everyone to church on Sunday. Or when you learn of the slaughter of thousands around the world or yet one more school shooting or car bomb or abortion.

It's when you start to think that cheating on your income tax or your test in school or your spouse isn't that bad and you just want to quit Jesus because it's getting to be too difficult to follow him - that's when God says, "Keep going. One more step. Persevere."

As someone once said, "It's the last step in a race that counts."

Reformed theology talks about "the perseverance of the saints." It's not so much about believers persevering on their own, but about God's tenacity, his persistent, relentless holding on of those who are his - a love that will not let go. When we fall, he picks us up, and if we cannot cross the finish line on our own, he carries us across.

Either way, we finish the race - we can't quit even if we want to. We persevere. We win!

P.S. My daughter never did get her eyebrow pierced. She pierced her nose instead.