By Linda Tancs

British swallows spend their winter in South Africa after having traveled south through western France, across the Pyrenees, down eastern Spain into Morocco and then across the Sahara.

As often happens with life, we can learn many things by taking a look at the natural world. So what does the swallows’ journey show? In a nutshell, it’s that the only way out is through. The birds’ seasonal migration illustrates perseverance. They don’t avoid the route; they accept it—or risk their lot by staying put under conditions that foster the migration in the first place.

Humans, on the other hand, are hard-wired for shortcuts. It takes many forms. We call it the path of least resistance, the easy way out. It affects mental reasoning and even physical performance (think of all those keyboard shortcuts). What route in life are you avoiding, or attempting to short circuit? Maybe it’s a new business plan to replace the failing one. Or a new career trajectory to make better use of your skills and interests. Perhaps it’s a relocation or improved parent/child relationships.

Did Moses find a “workaround” to avoid leading the Israelites through the Red Sea (Exodus 14:15-22)? Did Joshua abandon the conquest of Canaan, which took years to complete (Joshua 11:18)?

Timing is everything. Getting through, rather than just getting by, takes patience. Even the swallows don’t fly non-stop. They pause to rest. It’s a matter of patient endurance, summed up nicely by John Greenleaf Whittier, a 19th century American poet, in his poem Don’t Quit:

When things go wrong as they sometimes will,

When the road you’re trudging seems all up hill,

When the funds are low and the debts are high

And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit,

Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is strange with its twists and turns

As every one of us sometimes learns

And many a failure comes about

When he might have won had he stuck it out;

Don’t give up though the pace seems slow—

You may succeed with another blow.

Success is failure turned inside out—

The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,

And you never can tell just how close you are,

It may be near when it seems so far;

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit—

It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

Now get through it. What’s waiting for you on the other side?


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