Despite life’s adversities, keep trying

Published 12:02 am Monday, September 11, 2017

My nose was runny, cheeks rosy, ears blue from the frigid wind.  A good friend and I were huddled together, trying to light some matches.  It was Christmas break, and we were bored.  I had received a “Build-Your-Own” rocket kit from my uncle on Christmas morning and we were finally getting around to building and launching it!  We had followed the directions line by line.  We had wired the fuses and ignition switch.  We had built the launch pad — the only thing in our way now was the uncooperative wind blowing out every match we lit, one after the other. The rocket was only about two feet tall with a max launch height of 150 feet, but for two seventh graders, launching any rocket seemed significant — plus, the movie October Sky had just come out, so we were fulfilling our “space dreams” on this cold, wintery day.  Finally, the wind died for a brief moment.  We lit the match successfully, ran a few yards back, initiating a 10-second countdown before launch.  Moments later, the sound of ignition was followed by  the rocket bolting up into the sky.  We leapt and danced with joy, as manly as we could of course, and continued watching the rocket soar into the silver sky.

As it continued upward, the wind picked up again, causing the rocket to veer to the left.  By this point, its parachute had ejected and the rocket started falling back down to earth.  We began screaming, “No! No! No!” as it drifted to its demise, landing in one of the lower branches of the nearest pine tree in the church parking lot.  An eerie feeling of defeat came over us, bringing us to our knees.  We sat in silence, looking up at the rocket, surmising that any sort of rescue attempt was hopeless.  So, we got on our bikes and headed home.  The following Sunday morning at church was torturous. I could still see my rocket perched in the tree — Sunday after Sunday.  Before I knew it, Spring rolled around and after church one morning, I told myself, “Enough’s enough, I’m getting my rocket back!”  After lunch, I got my backpack and gathered a few heavy objects: a baseball, a brick, even a frisbee.  I recruited my dad, my former rocketeer sidekick and even his dad.  We went up to the church parking lot, determined to set the rocket free.

The plan was relatively simple, yet challenging:  throw large, bulky objects at the branch where the rocket was stuck in hopes of it coming down. So, we began taking turns.  After an hour in, we were getting nowhere; there had been several close calls, but no success.  Discouraged, we began packing up, when I announced to the group, “OK, five more throws, then we go home.”  First throw, no luck.  Second and third, no luck.  Fourth throw — the brick hit the branch just right. I can still remember the sound today — SNAP!  The branch cracked completely, slowly falling, the rocket coming down with it!  Everyone burst into cheers of jubilation!  The rocket had been freed!  A few weeks later, the rocket blasted off again into the clear, blue skies on a hot, soon-to-be summer afternoon.

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How in the world does this relate to us as Christians?  There’s a pretty simple answer for you:  keep trying.  When life doesn’t seem to be going “your way,” or when there’s been another fight, argument, job loss, flat tire  —whatever it is, keep trying.  As Christians, we are reminded in James 1 that “blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him,” James 1:12.  James further reminds us that “every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”  What if Jesus had given up and called it quits?  What if Jesus had said, “You know, accomplishing salvation for mankind is harder than I thought it would be. I’ll try again some other time.”  Jesus never once hesitated, never once doubted, and after every temptation, trial, betrayal, slandering, all of it, he still considered it a joy to die for us and claim us as his eternal prize.  Keep trying this week in encouragement, repentance, forgiveness, patience, love, zeal, compassion, trust — all the challenges that come with life.   Remember and embrace what Jesus has done for YOU this month!
Seth Duhs is the minister of New Covenant Presbyterian Church in Natchez.