It happens to me several times a week. I want to quit. Just yesterday, I wanted to quit my run halfway into it. After the first mile, my lazy self asked, “Why can’t we just walk?” For a while, the voice got louder with each step.
But if it’s not running, it is something else: my marriage, my job, my writing, my blog, or even God. This is just the nature of life. The temptation to quit is a recurring theme.
And if the voices in our heads were not enough trouble, the voices in our culture also urge us to “throw in the towel,” “make a change,” or “take it easy on yourself.”
What these same voices fail to tell you is that there is a distinction between the dream and the work required to obtain it. Everything important requires work. Hard work. And sometimes there is a long arc between the dream and it’s realization. That is where the work and the transformation occur.
In my experience, the thing that keeps me going is answering this question, “Why am I doing this?” I then try to remember the dream. “Why I am doing this hard thing that I am doing.” I try to get connected to the original vision, because that keeps me going when the going gets tough.
For example, when Gail and I have a fight—yes, we do have fights—I ask, “So why should I stay in this marriage?” Instead of pushing that question down like holding a beach ball under the water, I let it surface and embrace it. “What is at stake?”
But notice: I’m not asking “Why should I quit?” because I will get answers to that question too. The mind is tricky that way. It will attempt to answer whatever question you ask it, so you must be very careful with how you frame the question. Instead, I focus on the positive. I am looking for reasons to keep going.
So, why should I stay in this marriage?
- Because I want love to be the defining characteristic of my life. There is no better place to learn how to love than marriage.
- Because I want to be a leader, leading myself first and then my own family. Whatever else this means, it means initiative and sacrifice. That’s what leaders do.
- Because I really do love this woman with all my heart. All I have to think about is all the incredible moments we have shared together through the years.
- Because she is the mother of my five children—and a really, really great mom.
- Because she is my best friend, even though we occasionally get on one another’s last nerve. She is the one person I can count on to be there when I need someone to listen to me.
- Because we have 31 years invested in this relationship. It is less expensive to invest a little more than start over. We are too far into it to quit. (I would say this if we had been married for 6 months.)
- Because I really do know her. I have spent a lifetime learning. And yet there is still so much more I want to know. She fascinates me.
- Because I want to provide an example to my sons-in-law—and anyone else who is watching—of how to love a woman well. People need positive role models, and I want to be that person.
- Because I want to leave a legacy of love and stability for my children and my grandchildren. The alternative is unthinkable.
- Because I want my marriage to be an icon of Christ’s love for His Bride, the Church. After all, this is the sacramental nature of marriage (see Ephesians 5:22–33).
I have a written list like this for every important area in my life. If I get stuck and want to quit, I pull out the list and start reading through it. Immediately, it gives me perspective and energizes me. It makes it possible to silence the voices and get my head back into the race.
The truth is that we learn the best lessons when we don’t quit. This is when our character is transformed and good things happen.