Steadfastness is one of those great words in holy scripture that I get irrationally excited about. Apparently many of the writers of the Bible did, too. It appears rather frequently, so I get to feel my soul wiggle with joy at the sound of it being read aloud.
It begins strong. Firm consonants that anchor the softness at its end. The sound of the st’s and the d root the growth upward and outward of the ness that breezes through like the Spirit. The sound of the English word itself belies its meaning - to be firm, secure, and rooted.
Okay, so I get a bit weird about words.
Steadfastness is not one of the qualities we frequently mention in church. Faith, hope, and love, along with welcoming and even missional (whatever, exactly, that means) get the limelight. We embody them in stained glass windows and print them in mission statements. We preach on them. We include them in our convention resolutions.
Steadfastness is almost forgotten.
To our detriment, I believe.
Our ancestors in the faith who wrote about steadfastness knew its value in those who follow God. In holy scripture, steadfastness often makes its appearance when faith gets unsettled, suppositions are challenged, and life gets hard. Pits are dug and snares are set, but my heart remains steadfast, sings the psalmist. The writers of several of the epistles remind the communities, in the midst of struggles and hardships, to remain steadfast in their love and faith in God and each other. Jonah gets angry at God because God is, well, steadfast and secure in love.
Steadfastness is a rootedness in God, a deeply grounded sense of faith that is not easily moved by whims or personal frustrations. Steadfastness prays without ceasing, even when prayer is hard and we think nothing good is coming of this. Steadfastness is the breath of faith - in and out, moment by moment, filling our souls and creating space for God to move and be.
Steadfastness is not being hard-headed, refusing to change or a clinging to the desires of our own egos…no matter what. Ego sees a situation that doesn’t fit to our liking or expectations and pours another layer of concrete, refusing to shift and grow. Steadfastness is not being stiff-necked, unable and unwilling to see from another angle.
Steadfastness is a call back to the depths of holy when we become disenchanted. Steadfastness reminds us faith is not a country club experience where we will like everyone and everything all the time. Faith and community call us more deeply into God, especially when we are challenged and unsettled. When the breath of the Holy Spirit blows through our branches, removing those that are dead, steadfastness in God holds us to the nourishing earth.
Steadfastness is the woman who worships each Sunday, week after week, month after month, year after year, sharing her prayer and presence with others in her faith community. Steadfastness trusts the presence of God in joy and in grief, even when the way is cloudy and we can barely see the next step on our way.
Steadfastness is the member who comes to church to worship God, not personalities or agendas. Steadfastness shows up to do the work that needs to be done, whether that be setting the altar each Sunday, changing the light bulbs, or making sure tissues are ready to dry tears. Steadfastness may disagree, but it is the quality of love that says, “I’m still here and not going anywhere.”
Steadfastness holds us to God and to each other as we live this life of faith.
May we remember what Paul writes in I Corinthians: “Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”