Hanging tough

I realised the other day that one of the hardest things in life is to continue pulling while everybody else seems to enjoy standing still and has a whale of a time.

Ever heard the one about a man who drove his car into a ditch in a desolated area? Luckily, a local farmer came to help with his big horse named Buddy. He hitched Buddy up to the car and yelled, “Pull, Nellie, pull!” Buddy didn’t move. Then the farmer hollered, “Pull, Buster, pull!” Buddy didn’t respond. Once more the farmer commanded, “Pull, Coco, pull!” Nothing. Then the farmer nonchalantly said, “Pull, Buddy, pull!” And the horse dragged the car out of the ditch.

The motorist was very curious. He asked the farmer why he called his horse by the wrong name three times. The farmer said, “Oh, Buddy is blind and if he thought he was the only one pulling, he wouldn’t even try!”

We’re a lot like Buddy. We don’t like to do something if we think we are worthless and alone. Need an example?

Ever said, “Why should I pour my time and effort into raising my family? No one seems to appreciate!” Or, “Why should I put forth the extra effort to do a good job at work? No one else does and nobody remembers that I exist anyway!” Or, “Why should I be nice to him? He’s certainly not going to make any effort to be nice to me!”

See what I mean? We have those moments when we think, “I alone am left. Nobody else is trying and what I do is worthless.”

Maybe your marriage isn’t exactly a dream come true or your child isn’t turning out to be Edison – in fact, all he is thinking of is spending time with his friends. Or your dream career has turned out to be a dead end – no raise, no recognition. You try to cheer up. Then you start looking at some travel brochures – you really long for a month in a scenic cottage near the beach, you want to feel one with nature and try fishing or scuba diving. But you end up with a five-day visit to your dad’s second cousin’s friend’s brother who visited you when you were three, because he is going to be offended if you do not take the time off to see him. Not just that, you have to remember the names of everybody in that family, starting from the maid, because they are going to ask you if you remember everyone and it will show your dad in bad light if you fail. You do make an effort, but end up feeling that somehow, you have bungled it all. And all that money you had saved up has just paid for your family’s air tickets. Life just doesn’t deliver.

For the zillionth time you have made the same mistake, worried endlessly over something that you have no control over. You wonder if something is wrong with you. You wonder if anyone else struggles like you do. You beat yourself up about it. Guilt is about to eat you alive. To add to that, what appeared to be a good day at work or at home, turns into one of the worst in recent history. You get blamed for something that was not your fault. Somebody judges you. Or you say the wrong thing. You know the second you hear the words come out of your mouth that you would regret saying them. Still, they come out. “That’s not what I meant. You’ve misunderstood me.” You try to explain but it does not help. You bungle some more.

The truth is, life is long from over. So take one more shot. Remember it is the next effort that makes the difference to someone. Believe that you are not alone and everything you do affects somebody. And you are not worthless or alone. God is with you. Your family is with you even though they might be miles away and your friends are, even though they might have forgotten to call. Some do not have a family to be thankful for. And it is a consolation when you realize that others around are going through the same tensions that you have. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

John Milton may be remembered best for his Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, but to me, his masterpiece is a little poem, On His Blindness.

Milton laments the fact that he lost his sight just when he was keen to do something in this world. He is sorry that his life is filled with darkness. Then he questions God. He wonders why God is so unfair, when his only desire is to serve Him through his poetry. Soon, reason returns and he realises that a kingly God who has angels waiting on Him does not need man’s works. Those who serve God best are the ones who bear their yokes well. The ones who are doing great things in life are not the only ones that matter. There are those who accept their humble chores with grace. Those who are willing to just stand by the sidelines and wait. They serve God and mankind best.

If you are a reputed banker, that’s good. If you are a sweeper and happy to do your share in this world, that’s even better. Like GK Chesterton once said, “The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children.”

As Galatians 6:9 states, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give”.

So hang in there, and keep pulling! Your pull counts too. Jesus would never want you to stop living life fully. Life’s not meant for quitters or whiners…And it was never about anyone else, except God.