(I’ve invited friends to share their own stories of endurance or the stories of others. My prayer is that you would be inspired and encouraged as you read each guest post. Learn more about my new book: Sacred Endurance.)
By Christine Hoover
Every afternoon at 3:30, my dad drives to the nursing home that sits just outside his neighborhood. He swings his car around to the back, unloads fresh laundry, folds the day’s newspaper under his arm, and punches in the code to the employees’ entrance. He’s not an employee, but he’s been there so often that they finally offered him the code. That was helpful because his mom’s room is closest to the back door.
His mom—my grandmother—has been in the nursing home for several years now, ever since she fell and broke her neck and her body continued on as if nothing much had happened. Her heart and lungs remain healthy, but her mind began to cloud soon after her fall. Time has become difficult for her to measure, familiar names are outside her grasp, and sometimes she forgets that her beloved husband of sixty-seven years has died.
Every afternoon at 3:30, my dad begins the routine. When he gets to my grandmother’s room, he puts away her fresh laundry, asks about what she’s eaten, helps her choose her dinner from the menu, chats with her roommate, and reports on the weather outside, the great-grandchildren, or the latest family news. There is little for my grandmother to say, but he is there, nonetheless, to sit with her and listen. They then, together, work the crossword puzzle from the newspaper. As a child, I used to watch my grandmother make quick work of the daily crossword puzzle, and despite the decay of her ninety-year-old mind, she’s still somehow able to whip through the puzzle each day.
My dad says he sometimes wonders if he’s doing right by his mom. Perhaps there is a better nursing home, or perhaps he should push for a better roommate for her. But I say that every afternoon at 3:30, every time he punches in the code on the back door, my dad is a picture of sacred endurance. Sacred, because there is nothing holier or more honoring to God than obeying him and serving one in his name who cannot serve you back. Endurance, because it’s a string of days that have gathered into a string of years in which he’s having the same conversations, doing the same laundry, even answering some of the same clues on the crossword puzzles. Sacred endurance requires both heart and hands.
I’m starting to notice that, when it comes to sacred endurance, the ones who are doing it well are the ones who don’t think they’re doing it well at all. They don’t believe they’ve arrived or are above the grunt work; they’re just in it and remaining in it, willing to see their God-given task through, knowing they’ll see it through only by the help of God. For it’s this middle part, far from both the start and the finish, that most defines sacred endurance. No one is cheering. No one writes a thank-you note. No one knows the discouragement or the questions that plague you in the middle part. No one notices where you’ve gone to at 3:30 in the afternoon.
Except for One, of course. The motivation and fuel for sacred endurance is a firm conviction that God cheers what no one else cheers, that he sees what no one else sees, and that one day when the rewards are handed out, 3:30 in the afternoon will become an eternal treasure gifted by the hands of God himself.
I want to be like my dad. I want to serve at my own expense. I want to honor the Lord with my whole life, through days that string into years that string across mortality into eternity. I’m convinced that the only way that will happen is if I remember and believe with everything in me that this middle part won’t last forever. There is a finish line, and his name is Jesus Christ. One day my grandmother will see him, and my dad will see him, and I will see him. And then none of us will remember the way our bodies were broken, the struggle to endure in faith, or the code to the back door.
None of us will remember the middle part, because we will be Home, and all of endurance will turn into reward.
Christine Hoover is a pastor’s wife, mom of three boys, host of the “By Faith” podcast, and author of several books, including Searching for Spring: How God Makes All Things Beautiful in Time, Messy Beautiful Friendship, and From Good to Grace. Her new book, With All Your Heart, releases in March 2091. Christine’s work has appeared on Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, and For the Church. Originally from Texas, she and her family now live in Charlottesville, Virginia, where they planted a church in 2008. Find her at her home online at GraceCoversMe.com.