Wednesday, September 16, 2015

"You can do this hard thing…"

"You can do this hard thing,
you can do this hard thing,
It's not easy I know,
but I believe that it's so,
you can do this hard thing..."

When I first heard Carrie Newcomer's "You Can Do This Hard Thing," I was reminded of how much it means to have someone believe in you.

Sometimes we are placed in situations where we don't have the time or the space to decide how or when to act. These are the moments when doing the hard thing is not hard at all. We race to the bed of a loved one. We stop the bully in his tracks. We swim, because sinking isn't an option.

But there are other times when we must choose. Times, when presented with a course of action that is not urgent, we hesitate, justify, or simply avoid doing that hard thing -- because it is hard.

I have been on this threshold many times. In some cases, I've stood there paralyzed for many years. I've convinced myself that if it were "right," it would be easy. If it were right, I wouldn't be hesitating. If it were right, I'd be eager to do it.

I remember, some 40 years ago, standing on the precipice of a decision for many months. I had been offered the opportunity to move to a new city -- a move which had the  potential for wonderful professional and personal growth. On one hand, I was very afraid of leaving all that was familiar. And on the other hand, I knew it was time. That said, driving away from a town I loved - one that had become home for me - was painful. I remember the night before I was to pack my car and get on the road. I sat in the middle of my empty apartment and like Jacob, wrestled with the decision until the breaking of the day.  And like Jacob, I felt as if something in me was out of joint.

When I finally loaded up the car, and began the 3,000 mile trip across country, I could barely see through my tears. I made it over the first state line,  and pulled into a small inn for the night. I was sure that by the next morning, I would turn back towards "home." I could imagine unlocking the door to my old apartment and curling up in a ball in the corner of the bedroom until I could refurnish it.

This was many years before cell phones, and the closest thing to "call a friend" was a pay phone in the lobby of the inn. At midnight I padded down in my robe and nightgown, dialed the now long distance number of a loved one, and quietly placed the required number of quarters in the slot -- hoping that the sound wouldn't wake up the other guests. When she answered, I burst into tears and explained that I just couldn't do it. I thought she would be thrilled to hear I was coming home. But instead she said, "you can do this, you need to do this, i believe in you."

We talked for another few minutes until she said that I should call her when I'd reached the next state line sometime the following afternoon. I did. Her belief in me was exactly what I needed to find my courage in continuing along the long, hard miles in front of me. In the months that followed, whenever I felt overwhelmed in that very big city where I knew no one, it was that call which echoed in my heart.

Whether it's been a decision I knew had little support, facing a serious illness, navigating a heart wrenching disappointment, or an unexpected sorrow,  it's the feeling I had that late September morning as I headed west -- that I seem to go back to - over, and over again.

The hills of eastern Pennsylvania were a patchwork of green and gold, russet, and a red so deep you could almost taste apples and cinnamon when you looked at it. The sky was a brilliant September blue and the air was brisk with the promise of a first frost. I slipped the sound track from The Sound of Music into the 8-track on the dash and found Julie Andrews' singing "I Have Confidence." I sang it at the top of my lungs as I put the car into gear and hit the interstate.

I was so young, so uncertain, and so naive -- but someone believed in me, and they had faith that I could do this hard thing -- and I did.

Since then I have come to discover that there are a host of Biblical pioneers encouraging us from the pages of scriptural history. I think of Ruth, who ventured, with her recently widowed mother-in-law, into an foreign country and culture. Moses, who returned to what was familiar but as a new person with changed values and allegiances. Or Mary, who witnessed faithfully at the foot of the cross during her son's crucifixion.  These men and women are my heroes.

I turn to their stories - often - when facing the hard things. I like to think that they believe in me. That they know me as  their sibling -- sharing an indissoluble relationship with our common Parent. They have put their journeys on record as encouragement to all of us. And each time we do the hard thing -- in the face of resistance or fear -- we contribute to that chronicle of courage.

I love this verse from Carrie's song:

"here we stand breathless
and pressed in hard times
hearts hung like laundry
on backyard clothes lines.
Impossible just takes
a little more time.

From the muddy ground
comes a green volunteer.
In a place we thought barren
new life appears.
Morning will come whistling
some comforting tune for you:
You can do this hard thing ..."
We all have a divine Parent who believes in us, encourages us, and knows we can do all thing through Christ who strengthens us. Our lives bear witness to this. Our stories -- like those of spiritual pioneers before us -- lift a lantern to those who are standing on that threshold, feeling paralyzed by fear and self-doubt. We can be their: "you can do this hard thing…"  And they will.

offered with Love and with encouragement,

offered with love,


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