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Your Power to Keep On

There are times in the life of every one of us when we come to a place where we feel that we just cannot go on—especially in times of stress, when tremendous demands are made on all of us. Many persons find themselves with problems that seem to be just too much to bear. They find their old way of life disrupted. They become bewildered. They seem unable to find a new way.

Adjustments are not easy to make, but they can be made. It is, often, just when we have struggled until we feel that we cannot go on, that the pattern of victory begins, at first, to appear. Suddenly, we see that our struggles really have not been wasted at all—that a work has been done that was no less effective, even though it was invisible. Sometimes, when a person has striven to the utmost of his or her capacity and can see no progress at all, an insidious "something" inside of the person may whisper that it is foolish to continue the struggle. And yet, there are tremendous resources still left within—hidden, undeveloped resources of courage and faith, love, mastery and perseverance. And, if the person makes the effort, he or she may call them forth.

In his classic book (which is a great favorite of mine), Wind, Sand and Stars, Antoine De Saint-Exupery tells the story of Guillemot, an aviator, whose plane crashed in a storm in the Andes. Guillemot had, then, gone stumbling through a trackless wilderness of peaks and ice for three days and three nights—during which time he had been unable to rest, even for a minute, because of the freezing cold. At last, he felt he could go no farther. So he lay down in the snow. And instantly, the numbness brought on by the freezing cold began stealing through him, and it felt pleasant and peaceful. He looked up and he saw that fifty feet ahead of him there was a large rock. So he thought, "Well, if I lie here, my body will never be found because it will be carried down into the ravine when the snow melts in the spring. But, if I can just get over to that rock, I can prop myself behind it. Then my body will be found and my wife will be able to collect the insurance, which she will certainly need very much." So, he staggered to his feet and he started toward the rock. But once moving, he found new courage and new strength…and he just kept on going. He went on…and on…and on…and on until, eventually, the rescue party found him, another three days later.

One man who had to find his way out of a serious psycho-neurotic state, once said, "You know, the hardest thing was to make an effort. Until you have been down where I was, you just can’t imagine how much effort it takes, even to eat. The act of choosing a shirt or lacing a shoe or just tying a necktie became an almost insuperable task. I just wanted to curl up in bed and lie there." But, that man did not just lie there. He did not withdraw from life or let life withdraw from him. He got up and he fought the battle of himself. He pressed on and he kept on…and he kept on, keeping-on. And he eventually won the struggle. And so it has always been…that those who are willing to try and to keep on, always overcome in the end.

Life demands effort of everyone of us. But then, life is worth the effort. As a matter of fact, I don’t think that any of us would want an effortless life—not really. Circumstances may buffet us, and even knock us down, and sometimes, we may not seem to have the strength to rise again. But if we persevere, if we keep on…and keep on, keeping-on, we will find that we can get up and go on. And…this is always true. When we refuse to give way to thoughts of inadequacy and fear—or feelings of frustration and bitterness—and employ our physical, mental, and Spiritual energies in constructive endeavors, we find that within each one of us, there are undreamed of capacities, and that life can be lived victoriously and abundantly.

It is not outer circumstances or conditions that determine the measure of our achievement and satisfaction. The exploits of people with handicaps—the maimed, the blind, the deaf, yes, the psycho-neurotic—fill many books. You may recall that in the latter years of his life, Toscanini was so near-sighted that he couldn’t see the score when he was conducting. Lord Byron had a club foot. Homer and Milton both were blind. Sir Walter Scott was a bedridden invalid. Beethoven was deaf. Dostoyevsky and De Maupassant were epileptic. Franklin Roosevelt didn’t have the full use of his limbs. As a matter of fact, who does not have some kind of handicap—whether it is physical, mental, emotional, educational, social, or economic?

But you see, a handicap is not really a handicap. It may become an extra incentive. It can become a spur to growth and achievement. Often, in order to overcome a handicap, a person has to put forth such prodigious effort that sources of power are stirred up within him that enable him not only to overcome the handicap—to rise above the limitation—but to go on to achieve a life of previously unimagined satisfaction.

Hundreds and hundreds of centuries ago, the Creative Flow, the Spirit of God in man, led him out of his cave and set before him a dream of hope. That Activity of the Spirit moved within man and led him along the perilous way, where not even the mighty mastodon and the saber toothed tiger, for all their marvelous physical development, could survive. But, the Spirit in man enabled him to survive…and even to grow. And, that Spirit is your heritage. It is mine. It will help you, right now, in the arduous adventure that is life. We don’t mean that it will make your problem smaller. But, the Spirit of God within will make you bigger…if you let it. It may not preserve you from reverses, but it will bring you through defeat, undefeated. And, it will help you to know that "if hopes were dupes, then fears may be liars." It will give you the courage to accept life for what it is. And then, it will give you the faith to make something more out of it. There is a Spirit in you that is braver than your fears, stronger than your doubts. There is a Spirit within you, a Victorious Spirit, and you can meet whatever comes to pass.

You know, on Armistice Day, back in the year 1918, in Paris, an American sculptor named George Gray Bernard was inspired by the wild jubilation of the crowds. And, he planned a tremendous monument to peace. He knew that it would take many years and a great deal of money to construct it. But, he was willing to make any sacrifice—and he did. As soon as he could, he returned to New York. He rented a deserted studio. He was not a young man when he started this work. He heart was giving him a great deal of trouble. And the doctors warned him repeatedly that he should quit the project. But he paid no attention to them, and he kept, doggedly, at his work. And, after eighteen years…eighteen years!—he was then seventy-three years old—the end of his task was, at last, in sight. Then one morning, a policeman came to his home and drove him to his studio. There he saw a sight that would have "floored" a younger, stouter heart than his. His long years of toil lay around him in ruins. For, during the night, vandals had broken in and had smashed all his sculptures to pieces. Terrible shock! Most folks would have just given up, would have been bitter, would have said, "There’s no justice!" But the heart of this man of seventy-three had a strength that was infinitely beyond anything that the stethoscopes of the doctors had been able to measure. So what did he do? He cleared away the wreckage…and he began all over again. And when he died, some years ago, the great figures of his majestic arch were finished. And, he also left money for the completion of the entire project. His "Rainbow Arch," dedicated to "Gold Star Mothers," is, indeed, a tremendous monument. But, the Spiritual Monument that this man carved out of his life, shines in the Great Soul of the human race—and will shine there long after the marble of the arch has been powdered by the centuries.

It is not the monuments that we create out of stone that really contribute to the progress of humanity. It is what we create out of the stuff of our own lives. For every victory that we win over ourselves is a victory in which the whole race of mankind shares.

So, when we find ourselves wanting to give up (and I’m sure there are times when all of us have wanted to give up), you want to think of that old sculptor and of what he did. Truly, the Spirit in humans is a magnificent Spirit. When we face the "impossible," we discover that we face it with capacities greater than we knew, for we do not face it alone. We can go on and keep on…and keep on, keeping-on. We can rise above our limitations. We can overcome our challenges. There is, indeed, a Spirit within us!

If you have ever been on a high mountain peak, you know that far above the timberline—where the elements are so fierce, that even the rocks are shattered and powdered by their force—vegetation flourishes. Flowers bloom in the crevices between the bare rocks. Life is the mightiest force in the world, and the highest expression of life is the Spirit within man. Spirit in man is mightier than circumstances, any circumstance, which means, certainly, that you are mightier than any limitation that can ever be confronted. And you can go on…and on…and on…and rise above all limitations. You can conquer! You can achieve! You can be the kind of person you want to be! You can do the kind of things you want to do, for yours is the power to keep on!

© Eric Butterworth