“How do you eat an elephant? One bit at a time”.
One of my Dad’s favourite quotes is a constant reminder as I navigate my way through this gift of life. From GCSE’s to ballet exams to University deadlines. Small goals with a healthy awareness of the bigger goal is vital in progression, and we are not alone in this, as Jesus is guiding us along the way and filling us with hope in each step we take.
Every day I hear moans of deadlines, worries of work loads, concern for the future. Being in my third and final year of University brings its challenges, looming deadlines and an ever-growing concern of an expanse of time that will be opened to us after that exciting graduation day. It is far too easy to get caught up in a ball of worry and a desire to pause time, just for a little while, till I’ve worked out what I want to do: what my passion is, where I see myself in a year’s time. Yet this never seems to motivate me, and although it’s good to take time to pause, to reflect, to ask for advice from others, keeping a greater focus on smaller, more manageable goals, allows me to keep my head down and do my best. But I cannot do this by myself, by praying before I embark on my day, on the work that I need to do, I give my day to God and I am able to enjoy learning, researching, finding out new ideas. The deadlines become less stressful and more of an opportunity to discover. This is a rather idyllic view of it all, and it doesn’t happen as smoothly as this every day. But I know that when I’ve had a productive session, and worked well, God is with me, and He is just as much with me when I’ve barely done a thing, and feel deflated at the lack of progress I have made. God is always by my side, helping me out in the big tasks and the small.
As I keep going, bit by bit, I progress each day towards an exciting adventure that is constantly unfolding in front of me. Adventure: a fun way to view a task, suggesting an exploration, that doesn’t have to result in success, but moves, meanders and finds out. A path of discovery. Diligence keeps you on this adventure. Each step is a step in the right direction, no matter how slow or small that step is, if it’s moving forward, closer to your big goal, your ambition, then that is one mighty step indeed!
The definition of Diligence, is ‘careful and persistent work or effort’ (English Oxford Living Dictionaries, 2017). I love that ‘careful’ and ‘persistent’ feature. It guides a thoughtful approach that enables you to reach your goal. As a dancer, I cannot reach a performance level overnight, it takes years and years of classes, strengthening, stretching. The phrase ‘No pain, no gain’ is a frequent thought. And yet, with each stretch, each class, I am getting closer to being on stage. Even choreographing breath is required, each detail needs to be rehearsed and reviewed, each refined detail is a step in the adventure of performing. Pointe work, in ballet, for example, is a milestone in a ballet dancers career, however advanced he or she may be. Trying on my first pointe shoes was such a joy filled experience, I had done it! Yet, before this momentous day, we had carried out years of pliés, rises, footwork, strengthening my ankles, my feet, ensuring that I was ready. Without these steps, my pointework would have been weak and dangerous to have attempted with possibilities of twisted ankles and crooked toes. But because of each step along the way, I was able to get stronger at pointework. We waited so long to get there but it was such fun when we reached it, when we achieved our goal.
Such a persistence is shown time and time again by Jesus and His disciples, throughout His life. A key example is in Luke 5: 1-12, when Jesus taught the people on the shore from Simon’s boat. After Jesus had spoken, He told Simon to ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch’ (Luke 5: 4). Simon responded by saying ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let the nets’ (Luke 5: 5). ‘When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.’ (Luke 5:6). Simon had been fishing all night and had not caught any fish, yet Jesus shows that you should never give up, keep going. If we trust in Him, he provides and he helps us to keep going, to stay on track towards our goal, to try another time to put our nets out even when we’re tired and only have a little faith. It highlights perseverance from Simon, that he had been waiting all night to catch fish, and yet, although he did not think fish would be caught, he still put the nets out one more time, as Jesus said, and fish were provided, in abundance. His perseverance resulted in achieving his goal.
Even when it seems really hard to keep going and the goal seems so far away, we must never give up. Every step, however small or slow, is a step in the right direction, and a step that we are taking with Jesus by our side holding a torch, guiding the way. Jesus never gives up on us, no matter how many times we do something wrong, make the wrong decision, give up. He forgives us when we say sorry and we get to try again! What an incredible truth!