Put In The Effort
Effort only fully releases its reward after a person refuses to quit. - Napoleon Hill
I'm going to take a moment and share with you one of my (many) pet peeves:
When I'm in my car, and I stop at a crosswalk to let a pedestrian pass, I expect some effort on their part to get across quickly. I don't expect someone to amble as slowly as possible, as though they have no care in the world or for anyone.
Lest you think I have no heart, I have tremendous patience for people who need extra time to make it from one end of the crosswalk to another.
But for everyone else, I'd like to see some urgency.
I'm not alone in my feelings about this because my friend Rick feels the same way. You probably don't know Rick, so you'll have to trust me that his opinion is valid in this matter and worth my noting of it. Rick is cool.
Rick and I had cause to reflect on this together last summer when we were in a car at a crosswalk, watching a completely healthy and vibrant human being shuffle from one end of it to the other without any care at all that we were waiting on her.
As she slowly ambled along, I turned to Rick and said, "At least she should make some effort, right?" To which he replied, "Right!? When I stop at a crosswalk, I need to see some hustle and high knees."
It's really gratifying when people affirm your notions of social compacts and common decency. I, too, like to see some high knees and hustle when someone is crossing a crosswalk.
I'm a task-oriented person, so the idea of "putting in the effort" is something I appreciate. But I also realize that the measurement of effort can sometimes be pretty subjective.
Each of us has a sense of our capabilities when it comes to putting in effort toward a particular task or pursuing some ideal. We know when we are giving our all and when we're not.
But things get even more complicated when it comes to matters of faith.
Some of us have come to believe that the only way we can fully live out our faith is by working at it really hard.
We focus on doing. We create measurements for what it looks like when we act faithfully, living up to what we imagine to be God's standards (even though they are almost always our own), and we, in turn, measure everyone else accordingly.
Others of us have come to abhor those kinds of measurements, so we reject any notion of effort regarding our faith. We don't want to engage in it if it doesn't come to us easily. We might even use the terminology of "grace over works" when discussing these matters.
There's a third way to approach this, however. Living a life of faith takes some effort. Having a connection to the Divine takes some work. Like any other relationship, we have to put some effort into connecting with God if we expect to be able to experience the Divine.
This is not to say that God doesn't often get our attention even when we're not putting any effort into the relationship, but to maintain our connection with God, we must do some things.
We need to put in the effort to pray.
And we can do this in any way that prayer works for us. Whether it's a conversation in your head while walking your dog or journaling your thoughts to God with pen and paper, we should pray daily.
We need to put in the effort to pay attention.
God is always speaking, always arriving, always making Godself known to us if we have eyes to see and ears to hear. In a world filled with distractions, it's easy to get complacent about this, but if we try to pay attention, we'll discover that we can't stop experiencing God's presence in the world.
We need to put in the effort to be in a faith community.
It takes effort to be in community with others. We have to learn the art of forbearance. We have to listen and learn. We must give up some of our desires so others can have what they need. It's not easy, but within a community, we discover the Divine in ourselves and others, all created in God's image.
May you find ways to "put in the effort" to live your life of faith today and every day, refusing to quit because you also know there is grace from God as you seek to figure it all out.
May it be so. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.