Can I tell you a secret? I am probably the most stubborn person you know.
I have heard it all of my life. Muttered in frustration from my parents years ago, flung across the room in heated moments with my husband. In talking recently about how my personality is perceived by others, I discovered that women see me as focused and passionate, while men see me as unyielding and obstinate (i.e., not easily controlled). No matter what word you assign to the attribute, they all mean the same thing.
I don't give up. Ever.
No matter the context, it always felt like a compliment. Stubborn also means tenacious and persevering. Tenacious people make the world go round. They finish what they start, follow the thing through to the end. They meet goals, keep the long view, keep their eyes on the prize. Without a little parental stubbornness, how would any child be potty trained? Without perseverance, who puts dinner on the table night after night after night? I never changed my major in college. I never lost interest in my professional field. I never second guessed my decision to primarily stay home with children. How could this be a bad thing?
But there is focused perseverance and there is blind, unrelenting pig-headedness. The underlying assumption in my tenacity is that I always have my eyes on the right prize. That I'm working toward the best good thing all the time. I think about my sons, how they will choose the most random, unproductive, useless decision in which to dig in their heels. Ski boots for the swimming pool, no jacket for the snow, I don't need to go to bed, I brushed my teeth yesterday. My otherwise sweet-natured children will trust me to provide for their every physical and emotional need day in and day out, then will spontaneously insist their mother is in no way qualified to properly judge the weather. And they can spend HOURS holding on to their notion, pushing against my unreasonable request, wailing at the injustice. In the end they do not so much concede as surrender, exhausted, glaring, tearful. But with clean teeth.
One of the things I am learning is that there is a time to plant, and a time to tear up. A time for tenacity, and a time for admitting that sometimes even good, beautiful ideals can sour. Sometimes the road that felt so right just doesn't lead where you thought it did. There are moments where it is necessary to step away, no matter how alien and unimaginable that may feel. Jen Hatmaker articulated the same thought beautifully recently. She says, "There is a time to put redemption in the hands of God where it belongs and walk away before you destroy your spirit on the altar of Futile Diligence." Recently, I found myself exactly at such an altar.
I had to let a relationship fold. It was an ideal I held close to my chest with both fists, and a person I love as much as my own children. But there was nothing else to be done. I could have continued persisting, fighting, wailing against the injustice. But that was no longer the best good thing. Not for her, not for me. Sometimes the most loving thing we can do is to desist. It was time to just let it be.
It was one of the hardest things I have done. But I did it. And while the cross itself assures us that the story is never over, redemption is always possible, I have also accepted that redemption does not promise I will eventually get my way. It means that love, and love alone, is the highest good. Outcomes are outside of my control. My job is to lean forward into Love Himself, trusting that even a perceived failure will not be wasted. Love alone must be what I continue to pursue, what I insist on. It is the only place in life where I should be so tenacious. And sometimes the only way to persist in love is to just let go.