19
Jan
23

Holy Plugging

In the summer of 2000, Joan and I set out to drive from Kansas City to Seattle. The point of our trip was to see family in the Pacific Northwest, but also to enjoy a few of America’s quintessential tourist sites along the way. 

Our agenda included (naturally) Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota, the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD, but also a couple of lesser-known places along the way called “Mount Rushmore” and “Yellowstone National Park,” in case you’re familiar with those. 

Each was awe-inspiring… either because of its sheer natural beauty, or because of the wonder of human creativity and persistence. To wander beside those multi-hued hot springs at Yellowstone, or to marvel at the mammoth carvings of the four presidential heads at Rushmore are experiences I would recommend for inclusion on YOUR bucket list.

Besides all the expected “ooo’s” and “ahhh’s”, however, there was one sight that took both of us completely by surprise. It was the Crazy Horse Memorial, located just 17 miles west of Mount Rushmore. Envisioned in 1931 by Henry Standing Bear – a Lakota Sioux chief – and finally begun in 1948, the Crazy Horse Memorial will be a massive granite likeness of one of the greatest Sioux chiefs of all time.

I say, “will be” because this memorial is far from completed. As you can see from this photo (taken in 2020) currently you can just make out Crazy Horse’s face and extended left arm, pointing out to the west. The story of this memorial is a story of fits and starts… a lack of support or funding… a low to non-existent profile… and differing artistic visions for what the completed project will look like.

Joan and I were both initially impressed by the historical importance of this project. Yes, the four presidents depicted on Mount Rushmore (on land, incidentally, forcibly taken from native tribes) are important American figures. But it also seems vitally important to remember and celebrate the life of a leader of the original inhabitants of this place.

As I stood and reflected on the carving before me, I was also struck by the eloquence of its testimony to the value of persistence. How amazing, I thought, to continue pouring every bit of one’s life energy and resources into a project… even when few share your passion or vision for it. What does it take to keep working, day after day, knowing the task at hand will outlast all your years on earth? How do you keep showing up when all signs seem to suggest you should stop and move along to something else? Something smaller, more achievable, with greater popular support?

Persistence is a quality I struggle with personally. I can’t count the number of books I have started writing, only to lose heart and focus after a few thousand words. I am not sure if this is because my original vision isn’t compelling enough, or my plan for completion isn’t well enough laid out, or if my attention span is just too darned short. 

Whatever the case, this characteristic of mine really bothers me. And it is certainly not consistent with who God is and how God works. The Bible is littered with stories of people who – despite the odds and obstacles that stood in their way – persisted. Think Joseph languishing for years in the Pharaoh’s dungeon. Think Jacob fleeing into the wilderness to escape the wrath of his angry brother. Think Moses hiding out in the desert with Jethro or meandering with the Israelites for 40 years… and then not even able to cross the Jordan with them into the Promised Land.  Think multiple military defeats and periods of exile for the entire nation of Israel.

And on and and on…

The world dupes us (some of us, that is) into believing that all results can come quickly, with a minimum level of muss and fuss. Dream it, snap your fingers, and VIOLA! There it is. And while that might describe a Google search, or an Amazon purchase (“WHAT?? I have to wait TWO DAYS for that?? OUTRAGEOUS!!”), it doesn’t describe reality.

“Just plugging away” sounds crass and unexciting. Dull. Boring. Quotidian. 

But on those rare occasions when I have actually done it, I’ve discovered there is also something holy in just plugging away. There is a point – like my marathon-running brother describes it – when you “hit the wall.” You expend your own resources. You run out of gas and have no idea where the energy for that next step will come from.

And THAT is when Someone Else often steps in and takes over.

Abundant blessings;


4 Responses to “Holy Plugging”


  1. January 19, 2023 at 6:30 pm

    Thanks Russell. Good story and helpful lesson. For me the challenge of persistence is certainly with doing stuff; it’s also to do with relationships – being there for people even when it’s tough. Thanks for reminding me

  2. January 20, 2023 at 11:27 pm

    Sorry, I can’t relate, Russell. Oops, I meant to say, “I WISH I couldn’t relate.” Plug on, my friend!

    • January 21, 2023 at 12:38 am

      I don’t know. A guy who blogs every day, has produced movies, written books, parented children, and who knows what else seems like a guy who excels in the persistence department.


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