There’s an old saying that goes, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Any parent of a toddler child can tell you that kids are born knowing this. I think it’s encrypted in the genes because toddlers learn how to say “No” early on while repeatedly attempting to do something to which their parents have already said “No.”
Learning anything is a matter of persistence. A child doesn’t just pick up a crayon at the age of three and immediately begin to do a neat, if not ornate, script. They don’t learn to walk without falling down numerous times. They don’t learn discipline until they’ve tried things over and over again and learn that it either works or they need to try a new approach. The widow in today’s reading definitely knew the power of persistence.
I wonder what it was that the woman needed so felt so strongly about that she risked the wrath of the judge numerous times. The fact that she was a woman was strange enough, because normally a man, her husband, brother, or father, perhaps even a cousin, would have pleaded her case before the judge. but not this time. She did it herself, and continued to do it each time the judge ignored or said no. Persistence eventually paid off. The judge got tired of hearing her complaint and finally rendered a judgment in her favor just to get rid of her. Score one for persistence!
Life today requires some of that persistence. So many times during our lives, we have to do things over and over again to achieve the results we want or need. Even then, sometimes it never happens.
People like Martin Luther King Junior knew the power of persistence. He was jailed, arrested, slandered, ignored, just about everything that you can think of except being heard by the people he most needed to have hear him. He was persistent, and that persistence earned him a bullet in Memphis but his persistence had become the persistence of an entire race of people, and a number of allies of other races, who took over and used that same persistence to achieve some measure of the quality. Other groups and races have used King’s tactics to further their own causes but the fight isn’t over yet. There is still a lot of persistence needed.
All of us at one time or another has begged God time and time again for something, like the health of a friend or loved one, a solution to what seems an insoluble problem, and even a request for peace in the world. We’ve taken a page out of the widow’s book: we pray, pray again, and keep praying, all with the expectation that sooner or later God will hear our prayer and do as we ask. It’s the one time an 92-year-old and a two-year-old are on the same plane. Keep asking in the hope that the next time, the answer will be “Yes.”
We admire the woman for her persistence. We celebrate Martin Luther King for his. We look at those who persistently went about doing things that were contrary to normal custom but which were damaging to the health of the people and the earth. Sometimes we have joined them, other times we have encouraged them through contributions of time or money, and sometimes we just stood on the sidelines and watched. It’s a wonder we expect God to jump in and do what we ask when were not always willing to meet God even halfway. My question today for myself is how far am I willing to go to make things happen, not just expect God to take on the whole job?
Persistence allegedly pays off. We see a lot of examples of it, so the answer would seem to be yes it does. So what are we persistent about and how do we turn it into a positive result rather than just repeating words or actions? It’s not all up to God; we are expected to do our part. So today’s assignment is to be persistent about something: prayers for a friend, words of encouragement to people fighting a battle whether it’s a physical battle as in war or a battle such as cancer, homelessness, or some other.
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” doesn’t appear in the Bible, but the principle of it does. Go out, find something to be persistent about, and get on with it. Nothing will be accomplished without persistence.
Image from: NEWLIFENARRABRI