My wife experienced a visitation of for lack of a better an “angel” before I met her in a time of defeat and despair. A ball of light appeared in her bedroom at night, and she heard the words, “Try again.” She took it to be an angel, but she wasn’t sure what the words meant, and would have appreciated a few more words from the ball of light to clarify how and where she was to try again, but “Try again” was all she got.
The words have stayed with me. Try again. Coming from an angelic visitor, the implications of these words would seem to include: You are not alone as you try again. The trying, in and of itself, is important. Do not waddle in despair and self-pity. Try again. Don’t give up. This isn’t easy, but there is solid reason to hope.
The settings in which we are called to try again are as varied as can be imagined. Try again at your work life, in your family life, in your friendships, in your creative life, in your spiritual life. Try again in big ways and in small ways.
I have long been impressed by a theme of perseverance that shows up in characters in the Gospels, whom Jesus praises for their faith. I am thinking of the woman with the twelve year flow of blood who has been to countless doctors, and only gotten worse, who perseveres, going out into public to touch this holy man Jesus (breaking various taboos in the process) in pursuit of the wholeness for which she longs. I’m thinking of the four friends who don’t give up in their attempt to bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus when they encounter the set back of a house so crowded with people that there is no hope of getting in through the door. (They end up climbing on the roof and tearing a hole in Jesus’ house.) I’m thinking of blind Bartimaeus the beggar who refuses to give up calling out to Jesus when the crowd tells him to shut up and behave. I’m thinking of the Gentile woman who perseveres after an exhausted Jesus rudely tries to send her away when she is intent on getting a healing for her daughter. And I’m thinking of the parable Jesus himself told of a widow, powerless in the ways of this world who refuses to give up when an unjust judge denies her the justice that she seeks. She bangs on his door so persistently that eventually he gives in to her plea. In all these stories, Jesus speaks of the presence of “faith” in these people. Somehow perseverance, the refusal to give up, the determination to try again, is closely connected to faith.
Sometimes the reason for trying again isn’t that the thing that we are trying to succeed at is, in itself, particularly important, but that it gives us opportunity to develop that muscle of perseverance that Jesus was pointing to, so that when the stakes do matter, we will be familiar with what it takes to truly persevere.
For those of you who are curious, Bobby’s travel soccer team lost on Saturday. Sometimes there are gifts disguised in defeats.