A couple of years ago, I read some articles about the consequences of the lack of failure and grit in students’ character. The authors suggest that students who face adversity and persevere through it tend to be more likely to continue to succeed in school and beyond. And now, some schools include “character training” in their curriculum. Today I read a bitterly cynical article that was an acrostic entitled, “The ABCs For Terribly Spoiled Children”. e.g., “S is for summer, which is a verb”. These are examples of extremes I think, but I have noticed an increasing number of articles that are critical of students and their parents for aspiring to, or worse, achieving exactly what our culture has relentlessly marketed to us since before Mad Men started defining success and telling us what we deserved. However, our younger generations are poised to be the first Americans who do not exceed their parents in any of the indicators of upward mobility. The finger-pointing is ubiquitous.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch and under the din, the theme across all four lectionary readings this Sunday is about perseverance, of another kind, and its beneficiaries. Interestingly, the results of this perseverance are nowhere described quantitatively, and “success” does not appear at all. Maybe it’s impossible to create a graph or chart that illustrates the cause and effect of perseverance in God’s economy. So how do we know for what, or whom, or why God asks us not to be discouraged, encourage with patience, plant seeds, think about it constantly? What might these be saying about the character of faith?