Endure and eat that elephant: Lessons on perseverance

Yesterday, I hit a mental & emotional wall about this journey. Then, I had a slow epiphany: I have to work within my life as my life is to make these changes. Trying to do it “right,” as quickly as possible, and attacking every, single, health issue, all at once, is a recipe for self-sabotage. I remembered a few lessons from Aesop, Paul the Apostle, and “Unknown.”

The first thing that came to mind was Aesop’s fable, The Tortoise and the Hare. You know the cocky, vain, eager bunny who scoffed at the plodding, humble, self-confident tortoise when Rabbit’s braggadocio prompted Tortoise to challenge him to a race. Of course you remember what happened. Rabbit raced ahead and in his arrogance and dismissiveness of Tortoise’s ability, he decided to take a break. So, he fell asleep and woke up to discover Tortoise had won the race.

I wonder if an underlying reason Rabbit decided to rest and fell asleep was masked by his “king of the world” attitude. Is it possible he actually got tired because he hadn’t paced himself and NEEDED the rest, but, instead of admitting the truth, he hid behind his mask of overconfidence and disdain? Either way, he didn’t think it through, devise a strategy, or do enough research about his competition. He was overly reliant on a natural gift, which he hadn’t actually trained to use for anything other than self-serving vanity. Instead, he wound up sabotaging himself and failed to carry out his goals.

I’m pretty sure I’ve been guilty of this. Like so many people, I’ve started exercise plans, made resolutions to get healthy, and boasted with overconfidence that I was going to “DO THIS!”and “make it happen,” (unlike so and so). I’ve relied on my innate ability to gather and process information quickly. However, I haven’t disciplined and trained myself to use that innate ability with enough planning and forethought to get beyond the first leg of the race and move through the first obstacles. Consequently, I’ve seldom crossed the finish line. I’ve stopped almost as soon as I started most of the races I’ve challenged myself to run. It’s happened in many areas of my life, especially in the arena of my health and wellness.

I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and discouraged about implementing all the changes I need to make to follow the food plan I figured out a couple of days ago. There’s so much more to this process than just choosing “the right” foods. Research, logistics, and forming new habits are required. Problem solving skills have to be developed and honed. Other needs and obligations must still be met. Regaining one’s health is about so much more than the food and focusing on food alone is a set-up for failure. I have to be in this for the long-haul, no matter what.

Which brings me to Paul the Apostle and his advice on enduring until the end of the race.

Hebrews 12:1-3, Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart.

This passage addressed the early Christian community of believers and was a call to personal accountability for adhering to their faith in the face of all the things around and inside of them which threatened to derail their commitment to living an intentional life of faith in Jesus. Obviously, it wasn’t specifically written for those of us in the 21st Century and it wasn’t about choosing what foods to eat for optimal health. However, even if you aren’t a Christian, there is value and application in the message as it relates to this journey.

He gives advice on how to endure, keep looking to Jesus and follow his example of persevering in the face of societal shame and stigma. Even if you don’t ascribe to the “Jesus is Lord, provider, and protector” theology, his example and story is still one worth following when facing overwhelming circumstances while working to do something life changing.

In that era, just as in all era’s, the poor and sick were the lowest of the low and completely devalued in that society. Humiliation, shame, and systemic “isms” discouraged and thwarted any attempts to “rise above.” Yet, Jesus pushed through and moved beyond the stigma and societal shame that conspired to prevent him from accomplishing his mission. It’s an encouraging reminder that there is someone who can be counted on because he’s gone through it and that, because he went through it, anyone else going through it isn’t going through it alone. Again, even if Jesus isn’t your Savior, his example and outcome gives hope because it shows that, regardless of the “haters” and obstacles, one’s goals are achieveable.

Since I am a Christ follower, I believe I can count on Jesus’ love for me and his accomplished mission to get me through the most challenging and impossible circumstances. I can let go of all the obstacles, doubts, and discouragements. I can stop listening to all the negative voices outside and inside my head. I believe I can focus on Jesus and gather my strength from him, I can do this. He’s with me and helping me all the way to the end.

I’ll leave you with a couple of final thoughts:

My paraphrase of a well-known bit of advice, “If you’re going through hell, don’t stop or there you’ll stay.”

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

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3 comments

  1. Making a change in anything is difficult, but as you make changes around you the change in you is exponential. Keep going and know that good things will come from this.

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