Are you faced with a task that appears overwhelming?
A task with no end in sight? Consider the towering job that faced those who compiled the major dictionaries of the world.
The first great French dictionary, that of the Academie Francaise, took 56 years to complete, the Oxford English Dictionary 71 years. The basic German dictionary was published in 1960, 106 years after it had been launched by the Grimm brothers, who relieved tedium along the way by collecting fairy tales. The standard Italian dictionary, begun in 1863, is still unfinished! Indeed, editing a dictionary is not a job for people with short attention spans – or short lives!
James Augustus Henry Murray is credited with compiling and editing the massive Oxford English Dictionary, a multi-volume work that defined 414,825 words. He was only the son of a poor tailor and never got past the eighth grade. Yet Murray was a gifted linguist and so impressed England with his scholarly publications that he was honored with the task of writing a new dictionary. He inherited a project that had begun 22 years earlier, but was now abandoned and in disarray.
But by working 80-hours a week and enlisting the help of his 11 children, Murray plowed ahead with the project. After toiling for five years he produced his first volume of 352 pages – and it only covered “A” though “Ant”! In a later volume the single word “Do” required six months to complete. For thirty-six years James Murray battled tirelessly to complete the Oxford English Dictionary. The final volume was not completed until 1928 – 13 years after his death! Though Murray died with his task unfinished (He had reached the letter “T”), he had been knighted by the Queen, had received many honorary degrees, and had striven faithfully in a never-ending task, always rising above discouragement.
What great task are you facing? Don’t be discouraged. Others have done great things – so can you.
Consider the words of this verse by Longfellow:
We have not wings, we cannot soar;
But we have feet to scale and climb
By slow degrees, by more and more,
The lofty summits of our times.
The mighty pyramids of stone
That wedge-like cleave the desert airs,
When nearer seen, and better known,
Are but gigantic flights of stairs.
The distant mountains, that uprear
Their solid bastions to the skies,
Are crossed by pathways, that appear
As we to higher levels rise.
The heights by great men gained and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.
Step by step we can make any journey. The Scripture says, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the Everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired and weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. … And those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31)
Dear Father in heaven, help me to place my trust in You, to spend time in Your presence, to draw strength from Your infinite power, and to absorb light from Your transforming glory. Then my strength will be renewed and I will have power to run the last mile of the race and to walk to the last step of the journey. Amen.