When is it okay for us to give up? Is it ever okay?
You may have seen the movie Rudy. Its eponymous protagonist is a not-so-athletic college football player who spent years taking hits and practicing with his team, only to see a few moments on the field. Those short moments, however, left him with a tremendous feeling of accomplishment and pride, knowing that he committed to something and saw it through, even when it seemed hopeless.
The question: is that always the right approach? Maybe if Rudy had dedicated that time to learning something he was naturally better at, he could have become an expert in his field. The choice Rudy made was made out of passion: he loved the game to the point of dedicating his college career to it, and not caring if the outcome wasn’t what he had expected.
But what about bigger dreams? The dream of getting married, having kids, getting into a certain religious order, entering into a certain profession? Is there ever a point where you just have to give it up?
There are a few things it’s never okay to give up. It’s never okay to give up hope itself. Hope is trust in the Lord extended into the future, knowing that he will always be with you in whatever circumstances you find yourself in. It’s also never okay to give up faith, God’s promises, or life itself.
However, it is okay—and sometimes wise—to reevaluate certain outcomes, and realize that maybe it’s time to adjust your expectations. How do you know when to do that? When reality makes it obvious.
For Rudy, that might have meant recognizing that he wasn’t going to be a starter on his football team. It’s still okay for him to want to be a part of the team in some way, and maybe get playing time one day, but reality must be acknowledged and accepted in these situations, or else we risk chasing empty expectations.
This doesn’t mean you have to give up on your dreams, or that you can’t do anything: it just means you can’t do everything. Maybe your dream is to have a family, but you and your spouse can’t get pregnant. You might not be able to conceive, but you can still adopt, or be a foster parent. Accepting the reality of your current situation means having a dream, realizing it place in your life, and then asking, “Okay God, now what do you want me to do?”
The outcome may not be what you had expected or planned, but if it’s with the Lord, it will still be good. And once we accept this reality, we will start to see that the real work is being done in our character, and that’s the power of trying. It may not make you the kind of person you had planned to be, but it will make you the kind of person that God wants you to be.
Meet Fr. Mike Schmitz
Fr. Mike Schmitz serves as Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Duluth and as chaplain for the Newman Catholic Campus Ministry at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
He is a presenter in Ascension’s Chosen, Altaration, and The 99 programs, and has a channel on Ascension Presents. He is also the host of the Ascension podcasts The Bible in a Year and The Catechism in a Year.