If, at first, you don’t succeed…well, you’re pretty normal.

Maybe you’ll keep trying; maybe not. Depends.

I like this image. I like the contrast of the green, living tree amidst the warm, but inanimate rock. This tree grows in Bryce Canyon, Utah. It’s a wondrous place, full of photographic potential. But for today, this is the photo that stoo781-1d out. To me, it says “persistence.”

Is persistence only a human trait? Can a tree or storm or stone fence persist? A pet peeve of mine is the weather forecaster telling us that a front is trying to push its way northward. Seems to me that trying is something we reasoning beings do (people, wolves, crows…you know, the “higher” animals). But I see that the dictionary defines persistence also in terms of botany and zoology. One meaning is “refusing to give up.”

That tree, living alone among the rocks and orange hoodoos, refuses to give up. I get that. Now, I’m not willing to say that it is obstinate. Seems to me that’s a human quality, as in the definition that says that to be persistent one is “obstinately tenacious.” Like a dedicated student of piano or boxing. Or, an athlete trying to make the first string, or even just the team. Pushing. Recommitting. Not letting go of the desire to succeed.

That evergreen doesn’t know it is striving to succeed in that environment. It just is. Succeeding, that is, not striving. Again, I think of striving as a human thing. Or, at least rational. (Though I have to admit that it would be irrational of me to strive to be a concert pianist at my age, starting from scratch and having little aptitude for music.)

Where is this reflection heading? I’m glad you persist in reading, even as I persist in writing. This very Lenten discipline is to write a few paragraphs every day for the forty days of Lent, having chosen a photo of mine as a prompt. At first, the daily routine was invigorating. Really. Creative juices flowed. That may not have been evident to every reader, but to my mind, I’m thinking things are going well. And then I pass the halfway mark. And I’m wondering if this isn’t becoming a bit of a burden.

Many years ago, back in my Richmond pastorate days, I suggested that our church offer a brief service of Lenten Daily Prayer, specifically Morning Prayer at 7:30 a.m. every day for the forty days of the season. The first couple of weeks, we truly enjoyed the discipline of the daily practice of gathering in a small group to read scripture, sing Psalms, and pray. By day #30, I think most of us were counting the days till Easter, growing a little weary of Lent’s morning routine of driving to church, moving through the printed services, and then going on to work. But…we persisted. And at the end, it was as if we had climbed a mountain and cherished the view from the summit.

Persistence has its pay off. You make the team, you master the etude, you kick the habit, you feel pride in your accomplishment. If you got discouraged along the way, you summoned up the strength, re-fueled, prayed for help, recommitted, and forged ahead. You tried and tried again.

Maybe we could give that photo a caption? How about this: “Jesus, in the wilderness, refusing to give in.”