Jeanne Hunt for July: Catholics can’t be quitters
“Never, never, never give up,” said Winston Churchill after the London blitz.
“Move forward, at all cost, move forward,” said Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain at the battle of Gettysburg.
“I have fought the good fight. I have run the good race,” said St Paul.
Quitting is not in our job description as followers of Jesus Christ. So, when is it okay to throw in the towel? When should we keep at it and never give up? In real life situations, what should we teach our children about not being a quitter?
Teaching children not to quit when things get tough is difficult. It is one of those values that we teach in life situations not in a lecture. Our children will remember what we did much more than what we said. I will never forget watching a father standing in the pouring rain waiting for his son to finish a long distance race long after all the other athletes had gone home. This man watched his limping, exhausted son cross the finish line with a triumphant smile and a proud embrace as the two stood alone in the rain. My heart knows that our Father is often waiting in the same way for us when we struggle to finish our “good race.”
Look back at your quitting list. When did you give up on something? My quitting list looks something like this: tap dancing (age five), climbing trees, piano lessons, eating fast food, watching network news, making excuses, arguing and wearing high heels. If your list is like mine, some things that you turned your back on brought you closer to God and others took you farther away.
Then, there are those things that simply make no difference in the kingdom. The defining grace in this dilemma is embracing three gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, fortitude and steadfastness.
Ask the Wise One to instruct you in wisdom. We must step back and look at the reason for our decision to quit. It is through the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius that we learn to ask the question, ” Will this bring me closer to God or lead me away?”
When we look at quitting, that question can be cutting. Sometimes, we quit a relationship, a job, a behavior to avoid a force that leads us to self and away from God. If this is the case, it takes painful honesty to admit it and move on. The reverse can be true as well: quitting can be choice to walk away from doing the very thing that brings us grace and life. A young woman that I know quit her relationship with a man who was an alcoholic. He would not admit he was an addicted drinker. She loved him, but knew that she would not support his addiction for a life time.
Then there is the issue of fortitude or tenacity, courage, strength. No matter what the choice, it takes real strength to stick to your decision. That kind of strength comes from a divine source. We need to be aware that God upholds us when we ask for his help. God is willing to give that help in big ways and in small ones: sticking to a healthy diet, quitting those trips to the gambling boats, accepting the death a loved one, whatever…God is with us.
Finally, we need the age old gift of steadfastness. This gift is not real popular these days. We quit our job every five years. We replace houses, furniture and cars whenever we want something new.
Yet, real disciples hang in there. We live every moment with the hope of things unseen. It requires seeing beyond our present wants and keeping our eye on the goal. We have become a restless people. There are no vows of stability in the secular world. However, God has something else in mind in His world. We are asked to endure to the end. It is exactly what Churchill, Chamberlain and St Paul were talking about.
Scripture Connection: 2 Timothy 4: 6-8: For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.