On May 12, 1780 John Adams, the second president of the United States of America, wrote a letter to his wife saying, “I must study Politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons are to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce in agriculture, in order to give the children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.” John Adams had a profound vision for how legacies work and how necessary it is to think beyond ourselves and to have high consideration for those who are coming after us. This is at the very core of who God is. God is using and has been using generation after generation to expand and increase His kingdom. Psalms 105:24 says “In the Lord multiplied the people of Israel until they became too mighty for their enemies” and Acts 6:7 “So God’s message continue to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and even many of the Jewish priest were converted, too.”
This lead me to think about the many hours I spent on my grandparents’ farm and the legacy that they left to me. My grandparents lived through the Great Depression (1929-1939). My grandma is still alive today and is 93. She was born in 1925 so she was 4 years old when the Great Depression started and 14 when it ended so she felt the effects of it on her life in a major way. One of the things that she taught me from doing life with her on the farm was how to live a life of perseverance or the “suck it up” gene as I like to call it. Perseverance in Webster dictionary means steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. Agriculture life is very unpredictable so steadfastness is a must. Your life is not based on how you feel for the day, your need of comfort, or the temperature outside. Your livelihood depends strongly on your steadfastness to suck it up despite how you feel or what life throws at you and choosing to do the right thing just because it is the right thing to do. I lived in the midst of this persevering life on the farm with my grandparents. But had I not spent so much time on my grandparent’s farm would I have the same understanding of perseverance in my life? Don’t misunderstand me, I had great parents and they wanted me and my siblings to have it better than they had it. But in their wanting to do better there were some key things they were forgetting to pass on to us as they worked tireless hours at the local factory to provide a better life for us. They often walked in tired from their day needing to rest and the training of us in our early days went to the wayside a lot of the times, which so many of us can relate to.
Kris Vallotton says in his book “Poverty, Riches, and Wealth”, “The challenge with John Adam’s vision of each generation building on the next generation’s accomplishments is that those who make up the current generation often forget the sacrifice it took to give them such an amazing inheritance. They tend not to value it because they did not work for it, and consequently, they don’t do what is necessary to sustain it. In fact, they often don’t know what to do to stay in the culture they inherited, because they were not there when it was built.” This speaks of the trap my parents fell into in their wanting a better life for us. And it is an honest mistake many of us have made in the wanting of a better life for our kids. Through my own years of parenting I, too, wanted to do the same. Wanted my kids to have “the good life” and not have to go without what the “American dream” has to offer us, but I started to realize some hard core values in my own heart were not translating to my children’s lives. And one of these being the understanding of perseverance.
When others make most things easy for you, a spirit of entitlement becomes your middle name and temper tantrums become a way of life as you don’t know what do with the hardships that life throws at you. Spoiled brat is the term coined for this behavior. Which is the total opposite of perseverance. And I was in meltdown as I watched the ugly coming out of my children as a result of my misinterpretation of how to parent them well. This resulted in an entire summer of no screen time of any kind (which was the source of their entitlement) for any of them. And a refocusing of themselves to being others’ focused and find contentment with who they are and the relationships they have and not on what they possess.
We wanted to teach them to persevere through the boredom to discover what excitement they could find on the other side. To know what it meant to persevere through hard work and to find the reward of self- accomplishments and success. I know many of us would think that doing such an act would be like purposefully creating crazy town for yourself. But it actually caused crazy town to leave our home. The self-centered arguments around entitlement stopped. Peace returned to our home with more laughter than before. Quite often there were anywhere from 4-10 kids at my house this summer playing volleyball, badminton, riding bikes, reading books (yes! They would all grab their favorite book and read together!!) and creating their own games to play. I was going through 10 gallons of drinking water in 2 days during the hot dry spell of the summer. Benjamin and Lincoln’s mowing jobs increased which brought about the revelation of perseverance through hard-work to reap the benefit of success. God met us where we were at and we partnered with Him to bring success in our own lives. Yes, Tom and I had to persevere as well. I had to drive my children to all their mowing jobs, keep chasing them outside to find entertainment and not be their entertainment, bring them back to God and what He was saying in this season of our lives, run to the grocery store to buy more water, and know when to give myself permission to sit with them or play a game in the yard with them as well. This all takes perseverance on our part as parents.
We are not to grow weary in doing good and remember Isaiah 40:31 “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” We are not to give into the allusion of an easy life. It’s a smoke screen. To have a fulfilled life it takes effort and work on your part. Yes, after much effort (perseverance), the ease comes and we enjoy the fruits of our labor. But do not be deceived that it will magically just happen for you and do not assume your kids will magically grow into the revelations you possess. The trait of perseverance causes us to do what it takes to have a great marriage, walk in financial peace, and have an intimate relation with the Lord and others. It’s what keeps us advancing in this game we call life.
Director of Transformation Center