Goodness, Lord, what more perfect word could there be to contemplate on Good Friday! Call it persistence on a course through time, such as a mission or an ordeal — steadfast and undaunting and not without doubt for even Jesus cried, “Father, why hast thou forsaken me.” The idea of enduring despite setbacks and pitfalls has to be an essential part of the meaning of perseverance. One must be tested in some way against high standards or great threatening evils.
Theologically speaking, particularly in the Calvinist way, perseverance is the peculiar virtue of the Elect of God, those chosen few who persevere until they are lifted up into Glory. Well, the Tortoise will not presume to be in such a class or state of Grace, although animals probably have a legitimate claim to the condition — more so than a lot of humans; ah, but that is to judge. A tortoise should never judge a creature “higher up” on the Great Chain of Being.
Split the word into per– as in “through” and “severance” and you get the notion of severing one’s self away from something to be arduously avoided, perhaps a Puritan’s mark of scorn — the Scarlet Letter being an extreme. Perhaps the persevering person severs himself from baser behaviors, i.e. sin. It seems to mean that passage through a mission or ordeal remains essential to the meaning of the word. Fanatical self-righteousness need not be the goal of perseverance.
In Ephesians 6:18 , the only reference I find in my Concordance, Paul says, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit; and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” This comes after Paul has spoken of bearing God’s armor, and “loins girt about with truth” and the “breastplate of righteousness.” So perseverance is the behavior of convicted veterans or persons pretty well along their way in a faith quest. Through perseverance one “quenches the fiery darts of the wicked.” Whether one must have this trait in full or whether he can always be striving for it is not clear to me. If it’s the former, I’m out of luck. I know for certain that I am not one of the Elect. I’ll have to stick with “praying always with all prayer” in the hope I’ll come out a better person in my striving. This tortoise hopes a lot.
Of one thing I am certain, the Man of Good Friday and the Christ of Easter passed the test immaculately and set an example far beyond my poor powers.