I was reading on my chaise lounge when a fly landed on my knee. I swiped him away. He buzzed in a circle for a few inches and returned there again. When I shooed him off the second time, the same thing happened. It was repeated for about five or six times. I said, "You silly wally. What a pea-brain." No, he was smaller than a pea himself, so it would have to be a dot-brain. "What will it take to make you realise that it would be better to land anywhere but there?"
When I finished, I looked up and noticed that fly was back on my knee again. As far I'd knew, he'd been there ever since I got sidetracked with writing. I shooed him away but this time, I knew the joke was on me. Here I'd been, writing about his stupidity, and he'd got his way for far longer than I'd intended. Maybe he'd just taught me something about the power of persistence and focus.
For whatever reason, he'd decided that my knee was the best place in the whole room to be, and nothing was going to deflect him from his goal. He didn't go off all depressed and decide to settle for second best. He gave no signs of feeling sorry for himself and thinking that circumstances and providence were pitted against him. For all I knew, he might have been calling me a silly wally.
So as there's wisdom for both points of view, how do we know when to pursue something and when to stop? You can't flog a dead horse holds just as true in some circumstances as Hold fast to your dreams and never give up does in others. That's been a question that's frustrated me, but I'm sure being buffeted by waves of circumstances has taught me something I never used to know. When we do our bit, making an effort to stick close to God through prayer and studying His words and precepts in the Bible, He finds it easier to reveal His plans for us through the promises He's made for His followers for all eternity, which are recorded in His book, and through the gut instincts and promptings we get from our own hearts. Many who are saturated in the Christian tradition call this the guidance and leadings of the Holy Spirit, although you often hear it expressed as intuition, hunches and gut feelings too. When we have clear declarations to the effect that God is going to keep the covenant He's made with us, that's when we need to get a clear idea of what those covenant promises are and push in, sticking to them and expecting them, just as that fly did to my knee.
My history of faint-heartedness and timidity has sometimes disqualified me for receiving the promises because I simply haven't persisted. If I'd been the man who knocked on his friend's door at midnight, asking for bread for my guests, and he told me to go away, I would have slunk off with my tail between my legs thinking, "If only I'd got here before they all went to bed." If I'd been the widow who wanted justice, I would've taken just one scolding from that old curmudgeonly judge and thought, "This is definitely not going to work." If I'd been one of the fellows who carried their paralysed friend on his stretcher to see Jesus, I would've taken one look at that crowd and said, "We didn't get here early enough." I've been quick to acknowledge closed doors without even attempting to give the handle a bit of a twist and a rattle.
Two of my faith heroes are elderly people who lived in the vicinity of Jerusalem's great temple. One was a devout old man named Simeon who had a revelation that he wouldn't die before he'd seen the promised Saviour in person. There was also an old prophetess named Anna, who'd been widowed for 84 years and now lived in the temple vicinity, devoting her life to seeking God's will in prayer. When Joseph and Mary brought in the tiny baby Jesus, both Simeon and Anna recognised instantly who He was. In their expressions of joy at the sudden blessing they were witnessing, they, in turn, blessed Joseph and Mary (Luke 2).
What really grabs me about these two is how persistent they must have been in their prayers and expectation. Jesus was little more than newly born, yet Simeon and Anna had been awaiting his arrival for decades. She'd probably been living her devout routine at the temple for over 60 years. Like that fly, they'd returned to the same place over and over, fueled by their inner certainty that their prayers for the Saviour's arrival would be answered. After a mere 30 or 40 years of praying and hoping, they didn't just shrug and say, "Oh, well, that hasn't happened. There might be some mistake."
But unlike the fly (well, as far as I can tell), they had solid reasons to believe that their persistence would yield its reward. They had the promises of Scripture recorded with words, and Simeon had his personal revelation to support it. We have promises in Scripture recorded with words too. Knowing that's true, I love to figure out what's definitely promised to me and press in for it, even when it seems I'm getting shooed away.