Long term change occurs gradually through patient practice and faithful failure. Whether you’re seeking more attuned ways of eating and exercising, better communication skills with family members, or trying to change the world, patience and faithfulness will be necessary.

In writing about the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, Desmond Tutu said that the “faithful failures” and years of “unsuccessful” efforts to restore right relationships among the people of his country “nurtured the soil of godly success.”

I’ve been experimenting with different ways of organizing my schedule and “to do” lists since I began my professional life as a youth ministry intern back in 1985. I’ve had varying levels of success and failure, and days when I just wanted to give up. But, I’ve stuck with it.

Recently I’ve experienced a “breakthrough” — coming into a rhythm of productivity I’d previously only dreamed about. Today I wondered aloud to myself, “Who is this I have become? Who is this woman who moves through her day with purpose, clarity, relative ease, getting things done that align with her goals, letting go of what is incomplete, knowing she’s done what she could?”

It’s tiny, miniscule, and relatively unimportant compared to what Tutu and his brothers and sisters in South Africa achieved. Yet, in the same way that their faithful efforts brought about increased justice and peace for a nation,  my faithfulness has brought greater peace within, which impacts my husband, friends, clients, students, and everyone in my world.

For both great and small scale changes, patience and faithfulness are essential qualities needed to bring about a new way of being in our bodies and our lives.

As we say in the recovery movement, “Don’t give up before the miracle.”