Seeking Joyful Endurance

Endure to the end. What exactly does that entail? How should we do so? Why? Is that as miserable as it sounds? First, a verse that chats about this idea and the reward that awaits those that do “endure to the end”:

 “Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.” 2 Nephi 31:20

I enjoy the simplicity of the verse and the broad strokes that it uses to paint a picture of what exactly we need to do here on earth to return to live with God. There seem to me to be 3 (ish) things we gotta do—1) Press forward, 2) Feast upon the word of Christ, and 3) Endure to the end. All three of these exhortations are worth talking about more in depth, but I’m going to focus in on “endure to the end” today.
The first thing enduring to the end makes me think of is a powerful sequence in The Dark Knight (I know, surprise surprise, a phrase reminds me a movie), but I think it may be illustrative of the principle and also serves to plant some ideas in your head that I’ll mention shortly. At this point in the film, The Joker is killing people methodically, until Batman turns himself in and reveals his secret identity. Several people have been victims already and ol’ Bruce doesn’t know if he can make it, so he seeks guidance from his trusty butler, Alfred.

Bruce Wayne: What would you have me do?
Alfred: Endure.

Alfred continues to detail some of the how that Batman can use in his endurance, but the point is that Alfred recognizes that sometimes all we can do is ‘endure’ and grit our teeth and power through. Unfortunately, this seems remarkably unpleasant and not quite like the mortality that I want to experience. So, I turned to my trusty Oxford English Dictionary (where else?) to see if there’s some rehabilitation awaiting the definition of “endure.”

Endure: To undergo, bear, sustain or to indurate, harden. Hence fig. to make callous or indifferent. Also, in a good sense, to make sturdy or robust, to strengthen.

I took a couple different entries and brought them together because I felt like they gave some interesting insight. I like the idea of undergoing, bearing, and sustaining because I think it captures the effort embedded in the act of endurance, but in a way that is far more positively connoted. Particularly, I like the collaborative aspect of “sustain” because it suggests that there’s something or someone being sustained by our commitment to endure, which I fine feeds into the larger concept of the body of Christ, which I am partial to.
The next portion of the definition (which is obsolete in the spirit of full-disclosure) was fascinating—the idea that to endure is to make sturdy or robust or to strengthen something? I like that quite a bit. Those all seem to me to be far more active (as opposed to reactive) and focused on the change that is being wrought by the endurance. This idea fits nicely within the sort of refiner’s fire rhetoric, I think.
So, with those thoughts as a basis for what “enduring” is, I had an insight flipping through my scriptures earlier today that I think is worthy of sharing. I returned to the 13th Article of Faith (a passage of scripture that I’m particularly partial to) and was struck by some of the juxtapositions of ideas in a way that I never had been before:

“We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”

I have tended to read this verse as three sort of distinct and separate injunctions, but today it seemed that the middle “We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things” is intricately linked with the last sentence about seeking out the greatest works of art there are. Indeed, it seems that perhaps we only can hope to be able to endure all things, if we choose to seek after all that is virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy. The great works of literature, film, music, painting, sculpture, theater, etc. are a portion of the means provided by God to us, so that we can endure, so that we can be made sturdy, so that we can sustain the body of Christ.
Maybe I am just blinded by my love for literature and film. Perhaps I just want some sort of justification for studying literature for another 2-6 years and watching great (terrible?) amounts of film. It’s possible.
However, my life has been immensely enriched by my interactions with the arts. I find motivation and insight. I gain empathy and appreciation for the hardships that others face and learn about people in ways that I would be hard-pressed to do without the arts. I am enlightened. I see morality and the Gospel play out across the page and the screen. I see goodness rewarded. I read about evil being punished. I revel in the ambiguities that surround those ideas. I am immersed in stories and narratives and creation. I love tapping into the divinity that is creation, even if it is on a small scale. I see God reflected and learn things about God by learning about people, for we are created in His/Her/Their image and if that is the case, then to understand God’s nature (image) I should strive to understand as many facets of that creation and reflection here as possible (and study scripture).
My life has been immensely lightened, improved, and deeply enriched by a long commitment to engagement with great works—whatever the medium (but mostly literature and film). I believe that to endure all things, we only have that hope by seeking what is virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy. At least, that’s my only hope (and you know, Obi-Wan Kenobi).

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