“Effort is like toothpaste: you can usually squeeze out just a little bit more.”–attributed to a former pastor, Rev. Larry Brisker
Have you ever been so tired that you feel a bit lightheaded? I know I have personally experienced that feeling on more than one occasion, and it can be a bit worrisome. Scenes of traffic accidents caused by the driver that fell asleep often enter my mind on those bone-tired days as my thoughts have a tendency for dramatic, worst case scenario.
Recently, I was standing at my classroom whiteboard, writing something in preparation for the incoming class. I could feel the lead weight of my fatigue as if I was wearing the heavy x-ray protective vest worn once a year during a regular dental check-up. The lined dark circles under my colleagues’ eyes that I had observed that morning revealed that I wasn’t the only one, and the students coming and going from my classroom looked just as worn down.
As the next class began, I asked the students how they were doing before beginning instruction. One student honestly answered, “I’m really tired, Ms. Hill. I just want to sleep.”
Other students piped in their agreement. I thoroughly understood. Long gone were the well-rested days of August and September. By this point in the school year, students’ stamina was wearing down. Their growing bodies and minds were in need of a rest, but the school calendar stated it wasn’t yet time.
I needed to encourage them to hang on a bit longer. Therefore, I shared with this particular group the lesson of the toothpaste tube courtesy of my own long, ago teen years. It was handed down to me via an object lesson designed to emphasize the importance of the morning’s scripture reading given by a former, beloved pastor, Rev. Brisker. Unfortunately, I do not recall the scripture. However, for the sake of illustrative purposes, I’ll use Luke 1:37, “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Sitting in the small sanctuary of the church in which my family attended about the time I entered my teen years, I sat with my red leather bound Bible with my name embossed in gold lettering across the bottom. It was one of those Bibles with thumb-cut indexing, so that the user could find the books of the Bible with ease. While I cannot pretend that I was always this attentive–I was a teenager after all–I do recall paying attention long enough to look up the scripture the kindly pastor read . . . at least most weeks.
On this particular Sunday, I know that I was daydreaming as I gazed out one of the sanctuary windows. At the time, the windows were not stained glass, but instead covered with wavy, flame shaped, pastel shades. While I could not see outside, I could observe that the sun was shining brightly, and I was ready to get out into it. Plus, I was probably hungry by that point too! It was hearing his wife’s name, Rita, that caught my attention.
If ever there was a saint on earth, Rita was one! Though she was full of good-humor, and loved to heartily laugh along with her husband, her gentle, tenderhearted nature always shone through her eyes. Why was he talking about Rita in his sermon?
Refocusing my attention, I realized Rev. Brisker was talking about their family budget in order to help make a point. He described how the closer it got to payday, the more they had to stretch their budget in order to make ends meet–a relatable topic as one of four kids. He described the way in which Rita and he had to constantly remind his own three kids to turn out lights, don’t waste products such as shampoo and other toiletries, serve yourself an amount of food that is only what you’ll eat, rather than waste food, and so forth. These were certainly common themes in my own childhood household.
He then focused on the amount of toothpaste the kids tended to use. This was the time period in which toothpaste tubes were made of some sort of collapsable metal. Rev. Brisker described the effort and pains Rita would take to squeeze and compactly roll the tube of toothpaste in order to “squeeze out a little bit more.” It was then, Rev. B lowered the hammer.
With God, he proclaimed, nothing was impossible. There was always a little bit more for each of us–more strength, more perseverance, more love, more patience, more kindness, more gentleness and so forth. God’s budget was (and is) an endless supply designed to increase our strength and meet our needs. Rev. B encouraged his flock to know that through prayer, and a bit of effort on our part, we could make it through whatever challenges we were facing. From managing a family budget to facing down a personal crisis as well as any other number of obstacles in between, we could endure and squeeze out a little bit more.
I wish I could say that my students were super motivated and inspired by that story. Most were rather unfazed. However, that remembrance served as a powerful reminder to myself, and hopefully to you, Dear Reader, that we, too, can keep going. There’s always a little more toothpaste in the tube of life. Hang in there, my friends, hang in there.