Recently, my perseverance has been seriously tested in the most mundane of ways – home maintenance and repair. In this post, I want to walk you through the moment to moment challenge we all face when things don’t go our way, whether big or small, personal or worklife.  Do repetitive setbacks get under your skin? If so, this is for you.

I have a small barn with two floors. The roof is old. The shingles on the sunny southern side have become paper thin. It leaks and has for a couple of years. The squirrels have been living in the upstairs forever, leaving behind bushels of walnut and pine cone peelings, not to mention urine, nests and holes in the wall. It’s a mess.

I wanted to reclaim my barn as a workshop. Eventually i want to re-side the whole building. Winter is coming and I’d rather wait till spring. So I only patched the roof. I spotted the areas where light could be seen. I bought some roll roofing and tar and made the fixes.  When it rained, the leaks were worse than ever. I detected the source and expanded my roll roofing. Same result.  I then shingled the eastern half to completely resurface that side, judging the west side to look good enough while tarring every possible area. More leaks came. Finally, I reshingled the western half, resulting in an entirely new roof and no leaks. Yes, I know I should have done it right in the first place. Sigh.

Next, I sealed out the squirrels. I closed off all entry points between the walls and the roof, where the soffit normally goes if there has been one. Then I closed every other possible entry point. Each day, I returned to find a walnut peeled in the centre of the upper floor as if to taunt me.  Standing there, I could hear the chatter of the gray, black and red squirrels clinging to the many trees surrounding my barn. I found myself growing more determined than annoyed. They were winning the battles but I intended to win the war!

One red squirrel nearly got the best of me. Each time I found a new entry point and sealed it off, little Red would return the next day, feasting on walnuts still hidden inside one of the lower floor walls. Despite sealing off the floor, he found a small crevice behind a beam. From there, Red chewed his way through my previous work at the soffits. Later, he chewed his way through a six inch beam using a hole that was hidden behind a downspout!  Closing each hole all off, I noticed an entirely new hole which was the start of new attack. I closed it quickly and I appeared to be winning this friendly war. Indeed, I invited them to invade another small building I have but alas, there have been no takers thus far. Instead, Red literally chewed through a barn board to get at a cache of walnuts hidden inside a double wall. I raised the white flag in surrender, ripping open the wall, filling a half-bushel with walnuts and re-sealing his invasive hole. He accepted the terms I offered and three weeks later, our truce has stuck. Peace at long last. :-)

Did I mention that our water pump, submersed at over 130 feet deep in a drilled well, quit working after just five years and a $1300 repair job? The advice given to me that caused the last pump to go, had an equal and opposite effect this time around. As a do-it-yourselfer, I have become a quasi-expert in wells, pumps and the physics of what it takes to move water out of the ground.

Of course, nothing went smoothly. The cistern needed to be scrubbed and resurfaced in places. Then the pump itself broke after working just fine the day before. All attempts to revive it failed. It was the fourth failure in 16 years, each of which was supposed to last 20 years. Once connected, the float switch broke. The new one turned out to work in the wrong direction and had to be entirely dismantled and returned whereupon the hardware store didn’t carry the correct switch. It took me two more tries to locate the correct one at double the price of the original.

Through all of these misadventures, these words of scripture carried me: “Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5;3)

Setbacks are small sufferings. What is it that we are suffering? It is the loss of the delusion that we can make things happen smoothly and quickly. It is the delusion that other human beings will build things that work as promised. It is the delusion that nature and the squirrels will give up their ways without a fight.  As these delusions die off, so do small bits of my ego. I am humbled and in my humility, I find a greater power to persevere.  Years of these experiences have strengthened my character. I do not give up easily nor am I easily discouraged. I clarify what I want, I pray for strength and wisdom. Then I persevere.

How good is your perseverance ? What daily trials and obstacles are getting you down? For most of us, it is rarely the big disasters that get to us. Rather, it is the little things, dripping on our forehead each day like the ancient water torture. These defeat us, demoralize us and derail us.  Or not.

Perseverance has taught me that all things are possible, but not on my own strength. I must be willing to suffer the loss of my delusions of control first and foremost. Once mourned, I carry on. Whether I succeed or fail, I never lose hope – the hope that I find in my faith in Jesus. He is with me. The Holy Spirit lifts me, gives me insight and assures me that I am never alone if I reach out to him in surrender and accept the moment as it arrives.  My reward is sweet – the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.