What’s the difference between faithfulness and stubbornness?
An epiphany hit me yesterday and I wanted to share it with you. I met with one of J.T. Atkinson’s sons and daughters-in-law yesterday to plan his memorial service. I never got to meet J.T. in person, so I asked a lot of questions and heard a lot of stories. What I especially liked was that I found out when his wife, Betty, was put into full-time care to help with her Alzheimers’, he went to see her every day for fifteen years. That is the definition of faithfulness. They were also quick to add that he could be opinionated, strong-willed, and overall stubborn, but of course he could! That, too, is part of faithfulness.
I’d like to argue that stubbornness is based on opinion, and faithfulness is based on belief. (I almost said fact, but you don’t have opinions or faith in fact. I mean, some people do [Hi, Ken Ham!] but overall…) J.T. believed his wife loved him, as much as he loved her, every single day of their half-century-plus marriage. He acted faithfully on that, braving (one assumes) bad weather, aching joints, general blah-ness, and opportunities to stay home. Because he loved her like she loved him, even when she didn’t know it.
Can one even be stubborn when it comes to love? Certainly; many of you have raised children, teenagers and young adults and you love them through it. Many of you have had fights, spats and all-out throw-downs with your spouses and partners, and some have come through stronger. And that is a reflection of God’s work in this world through Jesus Christ. (Of course the narrative turns towards the Gospel; I’m a pastor, this is a church newsletter. What else did you expect?)
There’s something to be said about faithfulness in the church as well. As we enter the season of Lent today, it is a time of reflection, re-collection, realignment and resumption of spiritual practices and disciplines meant to help us grow closer together and to God. We will hear the stories, we will participate in the passion, and on Easter, we’ll have a huge party; but leading up to it, I encourage you to take on a bit more faithfulness. Come and have soup, prayer and study or choir on Wednesday nights. Come on Sundays as we explore the lives and legacies of the disciples of Jesus. Come to game night on the 16th, come to Jazz Vespers on the 30th, come be a part of Holy Week services April 16-20. I’ll keep stubbornly inviting you, even as I see you Sunday.