We flip channels in the middle of programs, we scroll through 140-character statements with little thought and we adjust the content of our profiles more quickly than the weather changes. We have entered an environment where we can immediately shift from one focus to another with little consequence.
But, certainly there are consequences, whether we want to acknowledge them or not. I fear that our flip-flop culture is diminishing the staying power of our commitments in the world. Think about how quickly trends come and go, how quickly entertainment fads come and go. But what happens when we apply that same short attention span to weightier commitments like relationships, service and vocation? Failure to practice endurance, patience and commitment leaves us empty. We miss out on the grander and more real things in life like joy, satisfaction and community.
I have learned about the value of the practice of enduring commitments from the members of Jars of Clay. For ten years, I have traveled and worked alongside Dan, Matt, Charlie and Steve as they have lived out their vocational call to artistry, justice and community. In a world that tempts us all to jump the fence to greener pastures when the going gets tough, the band has taught me the true and real gift of sticking with each other through those days and years that hurt and frustrate and break. Those of us who have been touched by the authenticity of Jars of Clay’s work are blessed by their staying power. In their 19th year together, they have just released another brilliant album called Inland. It is a work of art that could not have been produced in their first years as a band. Like an enduring marriage, their experiences percolated, year after year, to allow them to create this.
The need for sustained attention is true for Africa, as well. The HIV/AIDS and water crises in Africa are not capable of being ended through a fad of social justice. We will see the small changes of health and hope in communities only through the enduring commitment, not just to the cause, but to the people we seek to serve… for as long as it takes to end these crises.
I co-founded Blood:Water Mission with Jars of Clay ten years ago. If someone had told me then that I would spend more than a decade of my life building Blood:Water Mission, I don’t think I would have signed up for fear of being stuck in one place for too long. But it’s only after these ten years of committing day in and day out amidst the temptations to move on to something else, that we can celebrate more than 800,000 Africans with clean water and more than 30,000 people with HIV/AIDS support.
As fads come and go, and as our attention spans threaten to dramatically diminish, don’t forget to pursue those lifelong commitments to people and communities. It is these commitments where the treasures of true joy live.
Jena Lee Nardella is cofounder and chief strategy officer for Blood:Water Mission. In their sustained commitment to partner with Africa to end the HIV/ AIDS and water crises, they are on a mission to launch a new AIDS clinic in central Kenya.