Sleep on This: hupomone (April 16)

Sleep on This: hupomone (April 16)

Good evening, friend!

I’ve noticed one of our hummingbirds hanging around lately.  Hummingbirds flit; darting from thing to thing, snatching quick sips of fortifying nectar.  It works for them, apparently.  But there are times when we need to loiter.  And the passage of scripture I’ve introduced this week is not “flittable;” it deserves loitering.  The longer I dawdle here, the richer I discover it to be.  And the more relevant for this moment.  So loiter with me a while longer in Romans 5:3-5.

…we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (NRSV)

Last night I described God as the alchemist who can take the basest of metals (suffering) and turn it into pure gold (hope.)  But I don’t want to flit past the intervening steps.  God’s recipe goes like this: suffering produces endurance which produces character which produces hope. 

“Suffering produces endurance….”  Let’s loiter right there.  “Suffering produces endurance…”  Does anything else?  How else CAN you build endurance unless you first suffer?

I am having to retake ground as a bicyclist, ground I lost when I stopped for the winter.  I am having to re-toughen my butt.  And I’m having to re-build my “wind.”  And the only way you build your wind…is to suffer.  To make your lungs expand beyond their comfort, listen to them as they cry out in protest, hack and wheeze and cough…those “sufferings” are the only way forward to endurance.  There just is no other way.

The Greek word is “hupomone” (hoo-pah’-moe-nay) which means “steadfastness, usually in the face of difficulties.”  I love this word; I have a T-shirt that bears it, a gift from someone who once heard me speak of this affection I have for the word in a sermon.  The poster with the kitten hanging from a pole by its front paws, a look of terror in its eyes…and the caption that reads, “Hang in there, baby!”…. THAT is the picture of hupomone.  

When Paul wrote near the end of his life, “…I have finished the race,” he was speaking of hupomone.  Who brags about finishing a sprint?  It is the marathoners who brag about finishing.  THAT, I think, is what Paul means when he says…crazily… “…we BOAST in our sufferings.”  Not for themselves, but for what they produce.

Suffering produces endurance.  And there really aren’t many other options.  Unless it kills you, you endure.  But there ARE options about how we face it.  We can whine and kvetch…or we can lean into that suffering with an attitude that says, “Every extra moment in this crucible makes me purer, stronger and more fit for Kingdom work.  So, Lord…bring on the suffering I need to build up my spiritual wind for the race you have set before me!” 

Perhaps we need TWO battle cries for this COVID chapter.  “Shalom” AND “Hupomone!”

Lord, make me tough!  Made me endurant.  Give me your divine hupomone!  May this night’s rest fit me for tomorrow, whatever it may bring.  And may I face it with gritted-teeth determination to allow these hard moments to shape me into the person you want me to be by the power of your Spirit.  Amen.