There’s a story I’ve heard several times about Ignacy Jan Paderewski, the famous Polish composer-pianist, who was once scheduled to perform at a great American concert hall for a high-society extravaganza. In the audience was a mother with her fidgety nine-year-old son. Weary of waiting, the boy slipped away from her side, strangely drawn to the Steinway on the stage. Without much notice from the audience, he sat down at the stool and began playing “Chopsticks.” The roar of the crowd turned to shouts as hundreds yelled, “Get that boy away from there!”
When Paderewski heard the uproar backstage, he grabbed his coat and rushed over behind the boy. Reaching around him from behind, the master began to improvise a countermelody to “Chopsticks.” As the two of them played together, Paderewski kept whispering in the boy’s ear, “Keep going. Don’t quit, son, don’t stop, don’t stop.”
Unless we have someone whispering encouragements to us — and sometimes, even in spite of someone doing so — most of us have a quit point. Most of us have a place when it comes to others, ourselves, or even God, that we quit, we’ll go no further.
QUITTING ON OTHERS
We can be quick to give up on others, especially if having someone in our lives comes with a cost or the relationship is difficult. When someone else begins to feel like a burden, we’re tempted to quit them. Even when we sometimes endure relational challenges for years or even decades, it’s not uncommon for us to still have a point at which we quit on others.
When it came to others, evangelist George Mueller didn’t have a “quit” in him. It’s told that one day Mueller began praying for five of his friends. After many months, one of them came to the Lord. Ten years later, two others were converted. It took 25 years before the fourth man was saved. Mueller persevered in prayer until his death for the fifth friend, and throughout those 52 years he never gave up hoping that he would accept Christ. His faith was rewarded, for soon after Mueller’s funeral the last one was saved.
QUITTING ON SELF
Many of the people I’ve counseled over the past few decades were about to quit on themselves, or had already done so. It is possible to quit on ourselves, even though our selfishness tends to keep us in the fight for self longer than for others. We often entertain the possibility of quitting on ourselves when discomfort or pain is introduced to the equation of life. But we’re fastest to hit a quit point when our view to the future is limited or a fear of the unknown is stoked in our minds.
Several sources have shared the story of Florence Chadwick. In 1952, Florence was the first woman to attempt to swim the 26 miles between Catalina Island and the California coastline. As she began this historical journey, she was flanked by small boats that watched for sharks and were prepared to help her if she got hurt or grew tired. Hour after hour Florence swam, but after about 15 hours a thick, heavy fog set in. Florence began to doubt her ability, and she told her mother, who was in one of the boats, that she didn’t think she could make it. She swam for one more hour before asking to be pulled out. As she sat in the boat, Florence found out she had stopped swimming just one mile from the California shoreline, her destination. Florence explained that she quit because she could no longer see the coastline, there was too much fog. She couldn’t see her goal.
Two months later, Florence got back in the water to take on the same challenge once more. This time was different. She swam from Catalina Island to the shore of California in a straight path for 26 miles. Once again, a thick fog set in, but Florence made it because she said that while she swam, she kept a mental image of the shoreline in her mind. She didn’t lose sight of the shore because she focused on that image of the coast in her mind, and in this way, she achieved her goal.