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On Perseverance

Let's talk nursery rhymes. Humour me and sing "Itsy Bitsy Spider" to yourself. If you don't know it, go call a parent and tell them it's their duty to teach you this song. Despite hundreds of personal experiences with the rhyme, I have never mulled over its possible philosophical meaning. Until now.

My family recently vacationed in Costa Rica and spent three days in the Cloud Forest of Monte Verde. Our accommodations were nestled on a mountain hill surrounded by lush flora and a plethora of fauna, including horses, chickens, dogs, cats, lizards, a variety of creepy crawlers and one particular tenacious spider.

Each morning at the crack of dawn a rooster, that more closely mimicked a dying seagull, awoke us. He, along with our light-sleeping children negated any need for an alarm clock. So, to wash away the morning groggies I dragged myself into a lukewarm shower and then was jolted further awake by the appearance of a stealthy jet-black spider. Let's call her Bertha. Bertha made the unfortunate decision of choosing our shower drain for her home of choice. She was doubly unfortunate to have made this choice in coordination with our stay.

Now, I have a healthy respect for arachnids. As a child, I had a legitimate phobia. You can ask my sister. Through travel opportunities to some of the most sought-after climates for spiders, my clinical fear decreased to a functional tolerance, but only when they kept their distance. Bertha was not privy to this last caveat and felt it necessary to make her presence not only known but consistent.

The first morning, I found Bertha climbing up the tiles, suspiciously close to eye level. As I think most people would do, I screamed and ran from the shower. OK, maybe not most, but I have some supporters in this choice of action. I regained some dignity by filling the teeny hotel glass with water and splashing Bertha repeatedly until she spiraled into the drain. Never to be seen again.

Bertha had other ideas.

The next morning, I turned on the water, slightly warmer and more lulling in its effect. I shampooed and was on to conditioner when a black scuttling caught my eye. Big black Bertha had returned. And you may think, it was just a different spider who decided to wreak havoc on my moment of solitude. But no, this was Bertha. Costa Rica is gifted with a staggering variety of biodiversity, so the odds of the same exact tablespoon sized spider appearing from the drain when so many other possible specimens could have appeared is just statistically impossible. And I am good with statistics. So, I go about ridding myself of Bertha in the same fashion as the day before, but this time, I make sure to splash an extra few rounds of steaming water down in cupped waterfalls. There is no way, she has survived this recent onslaught. And for all of you pasivists, vegans or general animal activists, I'm sorry, but it was Bertha down the drain or hubby squashing her with a shampoo bottle. The drain seemed more humane.

Day three arrives, and yes, I should have learned from the previous two mornings, but when awoken by a dying seagull for the third morning at 5:00 AM, your mind is not thinking tactically. I make it through most of my shower. I finish the removal of some gnarly ankle stubble and then near my planted foot Bertha makes her move. I wish I could finish my story by saying this time I gave her a boost on my razor out of the shower-war zone to fairer terrain. But no, fight or flight kicked in and back down the drain she went.

Moral of the story: If we all had the tenacity of a spider, imagine what we could achieve.

I get that she is only a spider, but somehow humanizing Bertha gave me less fear and more respect for her efforts. If I were in her eight skeletal legs would I have hung on through countless steaming downpours or let the drain decide my fate? My Reality: All too often, the drain wins. And here's the real kicker - the challenges I face are usually minuscule first-world nuisances compared to poor Bertha's plight. But here's my take away: persevering through the storms requires practice, faith and never failing hope with your most daunting of dreams and prayers. If we never strive for anything or refuse to take risks, we are missing the opportunity to practice perseverance. And perseverance is something you need to run the long race.

I'd like the think that Bertha has learned her lesson. Either that or she is becoming a proficient swimmer. But for myself, I need this reminder every day, with each new downpour. Each time I fail or feel rejected, I will remind myself, that God has prepared me to weather this trial at this moment in my life. And through repeated storms, I will gain tenacity and lose a little more fear. Even if that fear is as small as a spider.

Let me know what fears stop you from moving forward. How do you plan to persevere through it?