“Are you ready to see how many statues we can find this afternoon?” I asked my four daughters as we headed into Central Park in New York City.
It was about three hours later that the first “my feet hurt” of the day was uttered. It was closely followed by, “Are we there yet?”
But instead of feeling annoyance at these complaints, I was amazed.
The truth is, it surprised me that my girls’ tired heels and sore soles hadn’t occurred sooner. I’d secretly doubted whether they could keep up all afternoon and do it joyfully.
But they did.
And, in doing so, they caused me to contemplate my own endurance. But not in matters of my body. Instead, when it comes to how I walk out of my faith when life gets hard.
You see, when difficulty comes, sometimes my tired heart and sore soul long to hail a metaphorical cab to rescue me from taking one more painful step. I often feel too weak, as Hebrews 12:1 says, to fully “lay aside every weight, and the sin which clings so closely, and … run with endurance the race that is set before” me. And, rather than digging in and pushing forward, I want to quit and give up.
Yet, that day in Central Park, I was reminded that endurance isn’t something easily obtained. Rather, it’s something we build and sustain over time. My girls’ physical endurance that day was a direct result of three sustaining things we did – and each of these are also applicable to my spiritual walk.
- We fed ourselves frequently
Somewhere in my mothering journey, I’d adopted the motto: more fuel, more endurance. I’d learned through an embarrassing public fit or … ten that when blood sugar drops low, that’s when my kids get hangry.
We made several snack stops during our three to four hours in the park. We shared protein-filled cheeseburgers and ham sandwiches. We may have even splurged on ice cream at one point.
Just as our bodies needed fuel to keep going as we walked, my spirit needs to be refueled too. The more I feed my depleted spirit the truth of the Bible when I feel worn and weary, the more I’m encouraged to remember that, as James writes, “the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2).
- We rested regularly
We also embraced impromptu moments of rest. Whether it was pausing to enjoy Manhattan views after we climbed the winding stairs to the top of Belvedere Castle, or stopping to watch the ducks at Conservatory Waters, we took the time to slow down and simply be present in the park.
Rest is also important for my spirit. As I slow down and rest daily in Him – rather than attempting to rely on my own strength and fortitude – my spirit is refreshed and strengthened. As a result, my endurance grows.
- We adventured together
Lastly, we adventured together. Side-by-side, we scaled the Alice and Wonderland and Hans Christian Anderson statues and giggled as we did. We may have even taken a wrong turn or two on a winding path that led us east rather than south, turning us into detectives determined to right our way.
Adventuring together encouraged and fueled my kids’ endurance. It provided them with the fortitude and grit to keep going for hours and to have fun in the process.
I need community to laugh with me in the good times, as well as to brave the hard times by my side. My endurance grows when others come alongside me, gently offer me their hand, and say “I’m here,” as they scale with me what feels like insurmountable obstacles.
Just as food, rest, and togetherness helped my kids endure our long walk through Central Park, these spiritual practices help supply me with the fortitude and grit to keep going when circumstances are challenging.
It was dinnertime when we finally arrived back at our apartment. By this time, all of our feet were weary. Yet while our heels may have been sore, our hearts were full. We’d endured Central Park together, and in the process made a favorite memory.
Ashleigh Slater is the author of “Team Us: Marriage Together” and “Braving Sorrow Together: The Transformative Power of Faith and Community When Life is Hard.” Find out more about Ashleigh at AshleighSlater.com or follow her on Facebook.