I’ve been thinking about what it means to be stubborn. Dictionary.com defines stubborn as an adjective meaning
1. unreasonably obstinate; obstinately unmoving: a stubborn child.
2. fixed or set
in purpose or opinion; resolute: a stubborn opponent of foreign aid.
3. obstinately maintained, as a course of action: a stubborn resistance.
4. difficult to manage or suppress: a stubborn horse; a stubborn pain.
5. hard, tough, or stiff, as stone or wood; difficult to shape or work.
Just looking at the word, it has no grace to it, with those clumsy double bb’s in the middle. It already looks intractable. Despite its smiling ‘u’ towards the beginning of the word, the double bb’s make me think of little feet stomping in opposition. The word ‘born’ seems to give rise to the meaning that someone or something possessing this quality has it innately; the quality did not develop on its own but was always there.
My kids are both stubborn. Zac is a master debater, even from when he was small. “Why do I need to clean my room? Isn’t it your house? Why should I make my bed when I’m just going to sleep in it again? Cooked vegetables for dinner? I’m not hungry”. Ruby and I have had several “battle of the wills” getting her to clean her room. Those of you who attend our church have probably witnessed me “removing her from the fellowship” so she can learn to do what she’s told when she’s asked. I always win. Usually I keep my cool, and when I don’t, I apologize. I take full responsibility for this negative character trait that my offspring have a double portion of.
Our Bible reading plan put us in Exodus now. This word, stubborn, applies to Pharaoh. The Bible attributed it to him over and over again. Every time Moses and Aaron released a plague, the court magicians duplicated it – water into blood, gnats, etc. And even when they couldn’t, once the immediate danger or inconvenience passed, Pharoah “hardened his heart again”. God struck the firstborn of all of Egypt and that was the last straw for Pharoah to release the Israelites to worship God. But once the Israelites left, Pharoah regained his stubbornness and pursued them with his army, all the way into the middle of the Red Sea. His stubbornness got himself and his entire army drowned.
This is not how I’d like to be remembered. It’s not how I want my kids to be remembered, either. But, at the risk of sounding sacrilegious, God is stubborn, too. He called Israel a “stiff-necked” people, God-speak for “stubborn”. And if they are His chosen people, logically, they carry His DNA. God’s love for them, and us who are grafted into the fellowship, is stubborn. Persistent. He remains constant despite obstacles, sin, rejection, even hatred. He longs for us, woos us, reaches out to us in a myriad of ways every day. We curse Him. We turn away from him and distract ourselves with entertainment. He is not deterred. He is stubborn. He encompasses all the definitions of the word. Thank God for his “unreasonable” love!
Maybe stubborn is not a bad quality. It just has a bad rep. Persistent love in the face of all odds is a wonderful, amazing thing. May we learn to be stubborn for the right things – righteousness, holiness, and all the fruits of the Spirit. May we be stubborn to protect the fatherless, the widow and the orphan. May we be stubborn in seeking His face.