Do not quit.

In 2011, only five weeks before the end of what had been a difficult semester of grad school, I pined for finals week. Being in that place reminded me of what it feels like to aim for the finish line on a dragon boat.

Several springs ago, I spent a season on a dragon boat team and a day competing in the Tampa Bay Dragon Boat Races. It is an art to paddle in sync with 19 other people, which you must do in order to stay on course. It is exhilarating. And exhausting.

The easy part — once you’ve trained — is starting strong. The hard part is staying strong for the rest of the race. Your job is to throw your arm into the air and put the paddle back into the water, over and over, in unison with your teammates. You get splashed and you get blisters. Sometimes your whole body hurts.

In a race in the Garrison Channel, I swore I felt the finish line coming. I was hurting but I paddled, when the only thing everything in me wanted to do was stop.

And then I started to chant.

Do. Not. Quit.

At first, in my head.

Do. Not. Quit.

Then, I whispered it.

Do. Not. Quit.

Louder, one word for each time my paddle hit the water.

Do. Not. Quit.

Seconds later, the race ended — relief. The end of a workout that hurt but was worth it.

I thought of this last night while I worked out. Do. Not. Quit. Because I wanted to. Because frankly I don’t like to exert myself. Exertion is not within my comfort zone. It hurts.

But hear this: it is worth it. There is a finish line to tough times, like hard semesters, and busy seasons at work, or slow ones, and dry seasons in prayer.

I don’t know what your tough time is. I don’t know your rough patch. But if you have discerned that the work it requires is worth it, do. not. quit.

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