Never give up!

October 25, 2014 Howard Kenyon No comments exist


You want to keep going, but sometimes you just can’t see your way through. You wish a miracle would come along and rescue you. Yet you know the universe doesn’t work that way.  Not usually.
Way back when, a friend was talking about this other guy who seemed to sail through life. He called him a flyer. I said “that’s me”, mistaking intensity for effortlessness. No, the friend said, “you are a plodder.”
I bristled at the label, not liking labels as it is. This label made me feel like a mule when I preferred to see myself as an eagle or a falcon.
As time went on, I noticed how often flyers of the human kind crash and burn. I came to appreciate the durability of plodding. Plodders stumble and fall, too, but when they do, they get back up and keep moving. Not because they love the pain, but because there is more to lose in giving up.
This week some old Texas friends facebooked me with a project they are working on.  Compiling history on campus ministry programs I used to be involved with down there, they wanted to wrack my brain as well as theirs.
I moved to Waco in 1976 to attend grad school at Baylor University. My new pastor in Waco, Paul Palser, got me linked up with Darrell Logue, Chi Alpha director for campus groups across North Texas at the time.
For the next season of my life, I worked part-time with Darrell, supervising groups in Waco, College Station, Austin, and San Marcos. Then Darrell resigned to focus his entire attention on serving as pastor of a local church.
At a college retreat that semester, he gave his farewell address, quoting the immortal, if inaccurately quoted words of Winston Churchill, “Never give up!” Churchill actually said, “Never give in”, but never mind, Darrell’s point was “don’t quit.”
First glance you might think that odd, telling us never to give up when he was quitting. But he wasn’t quitting. He had fulfilled his work with Chi Alpha and was turning things over to the next generation, which happened to include me as I took his place.
A short while later, he and his wife, Barbara, were driving down a two lane country highway, the setting sun glaring in their eyes, when a driver approaching from the opposite direction veered into their lane, hitting their small car head on. Darrell and Barbara died instantly, leaving behind two young orphans.
As I wept at their funeral, I realized Darrell had already preached his own funeral sermon some months before at that retreat. Never give up was his message for those of us left behind.
Sometimes plodding on means taking a break, getting some rest, recalibrating your engine. I had to do just that several years ago. Wasn’t pain free, not by a long shot. But that long break was what was needed to keep going for many years to come.
Sometimes you realize a certain role is finished for you, as when Darrell left Chi Alpha to move on in a different direction. He sensed his time there was finished. He had no idea how little time he had left, but if he had, I doubt his decision would have been any different.  His choice in that moment came from a lifetime of making thoughtful moves.
Life can be quirky, painful, full of tragedy. Some people are able to fly and sustain themselves through a lifetime of flying. Plenty crash and burn at one point or another.  Even non-flyers do that.  But the heart of a plodder is one who, when he does crash and burn, gets back up and keeps going.
The way some people talk you’d think they were entitled to a life of ease and comfort. Maybe because of intelligence, special talents, good looks or connections. Perhaps because they have faith or because they eschew faith. None of these are talismans against struggle and tribulation.
It sure seems as though some people have more than their share of troubles. Because of where they were born or the circumstances in which they were born and raised. Some people have a knack for causing their own problems, but there are plenty of others for whom, through no discernible fault of their own, pain and suffering seem to favor.
I don’t know if plodding is an innate trait or a skill you can develop. And I certainly bear no ill will toward those who, for whatever reason, find it impossible to keep on going. But for those of us who can, there is no secret to perseverance.
In China we had an expression that we taught our kids on difficult trails when they were younger. “Yi bu yi bu.” “One step at a time” is the English equivalent. As we walked along with them, we’d chant in singsong fashion “yi bu yi bu,” the rhythm of the chant adding energy to their young feet. 
I’ve been on trails where I wished for some eagle to pick me up and carry me over a rough spot. Eagles are not so inclined. The only option is to keep moving. Well, you can give up, I guess. But that tends to be even more painful than moving ahead.
When you question whether the end of the trail is reachable, just remind yourself that the only way to find out is to keep going.  All that is required is that you put one foot in front of the other.
Darrell and Barbara Logue died in Killeen, Texas, thirty-five years ago this week. 

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