President Obama has postponed his trip to Guam, Indonesia, and Australia to work for the passage of health-care reform. The president's determination reminds me of wisdom my mother taught me: "The race is not given to the swift, nor victories to the strong, but to she who endures to the end." Her lesson to me was one of endurance.
This wisdom is a conflation of two verses of Bible, Ecclesiastes 9:11 and Matthew 10:22. The verse in Ecclesiastes says: "the race is not given to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful, but time and chance happens to them all." This was much too existential for my mother's faith. The teaching of Jesus was more fitting. Matthew 10:22 says: "and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved."
Sometimes there is no way out but through. The lesson is to keep on keeping on until the thing is done. Ecclesiastes 7:8 says: "Better is the end of a thing than its beginning; the patient in spirit better than the proud in spirit." Endurance is a virtue. It is the fortitude, the strength of mind and will to persevere through adversity. Endurance is courage.
When the discussion on health-care reform first began over a year ago, I had no idea that passing reform legislation would be so difficult. I thought it indubitable, unquestionable that the health-care system in the United States was antiquated, far behind nearly every other system of health-care in the developed world. It had been a campaign promise of Barack Obama and the Democrats. They won big, thus it was obvious that a majority of people in the nation wanted a change.
And then came summer with raucous town hall meetings, death panel nonsense, talk of President Obama's Waterloo, a push for the public option, Republican obstructionism, Democratic recalcitrance on this or that issue, the passage of two bills, a presidential summit, more disingenuous talking points and the work is not finished as of this writing.
However, the good news is that it is not over until the victory is won. Gospel singer Maurette Brown Clark reminds us in her song: "It Ain't Over" that the impossible is God's chance, God's opportunity to show up and work a miracle. She encourages us to keep fighting, praying, fasting, pressing, progressing, moving, reading, interceding, believing, trusting, trying, travailing, living, giving, going.
No matter the issue, God has the final say. It is our responsibility to continue to do the work to which we have been called. It is our work to struggle for justice. Health-care reform is a justice issue. It is an issue of equitable distribution of the good things of a society. Endurance is a necessary virtue in both matters of public policy and personal righteousness. And as our sister Clark reminds us: "keep fighting until your victory is won."
Dr. Valerie Elverton Dixon is an independent scholar who publishes lectures and essays at JustPeaceTheory.com. She received her Ph.D. in religion and society from Temple University and taught Christian ethics at United Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Theological School.