Persistence – Not Perfection

It was my last day of work for George Barney in Phoenix, Arizona. He knew I was leaving to attend college in South Carolina. He also knew I had tried to attend the year before but, due to the drowning death of my 7-year-old youngest brother, and realizing that to Mother my leaving was like losing a second child within a few months, I had postponed my college plans. But the year had passed, and I was now ready to start towards my dream of a college degree. As we said our goodbyes, George looked me in the eye and said, “Geneva, you are one of the most determined people I have ever met.”

I left for school with only enough money to pay the first month’s room, board and tuition. Never mind that it took working in both the office and the dining hall to cover the costs. I was not a perfect student – my grades certainly reflected that! But persistence won out and I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree.

My degree is in the Humanities, but I took a lot of speech classes. Even those many years ago, there was buried within me the desire to be a professional speaker. To realize this dream would demand persistence, yet I had no idea how imperfect the road would be.

Life happens. Dreams get shoved into the background. I married, reared four children and have been blessed to see them all married and establishing families of their own. They have further blessed me with nine grandchildren in whom I delight. When our children were very young, my husband suffered a complete breakdown and was subsequently diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. From that point on, all I could dream was of his being restored to health and productivity. Some days it took every ounce of strength I could muster just to keep putting one foot in front of the other, but that is the epitome of persistence.

I never dreamed that joining Toastmasters in 1994 and experiencing all that the organization offers in the way of communication and leadership skills development would eventually be the catalyst that helped me realize my dream of being a professional speaker. Persistence in Toastmasters has given me a laboratory in which to hone my speaking skills and a platform from which to showcase them.

In August of 2012, the dream became reality. The journey has not been perfect, but persistence in building skills, developing speaking opportunities and moving into training others is beginning to pay off – literally! After recently learning that I have a paralyzed vocal cord – not good news for a professional speaker – I was tempted to give it all up. Why persist? I have a gravelly voice and tumors in my lungs that compete for every breath I take. Perhaps we have now crossed the line from persistence to stubbornness, but I have determined that as long as God enables, no matter how I feel, I will get up, dress up, and show up! Perfection will not be attained this side of heaven, but persistence bespeaks a consistent forward movement.

For the believer, persistence is a God-given trait. Psalm 121 defines persistence. The Psalmist writes, “My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” I love what comes next: “He will not suffer thy foot to be moved.” The Lord keeps us on course to accomplish his will. To be sure we do not stray from his chosen path, he “neither slumbers nor sleeps.” Verse 8 of this Psalm bears this out: “The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.” Any persistence manifested in my life has come from the Lord.

Persistence will always trump perfection. The Lord be praised!

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