I began my doctoral studies in English in Atlanta in 1972. It was intended to be a 5-year program, but it took much longer because I was busy with earning a living and rearing a young family. I finally received my PhD in 1984, twelve years after I started.
At one point, the school wanted me to leave the program because of my slow progress; but my advisor, Dr. William Sessions, a Milton scholar, intervened and asked them to allow me to continue. He knew I was a serious and capable student and that only the pressures of earning a living and raising a family were preventing me from moving through the program quickly. It was Dr. Sessions who found a way to remove the interference that was blocking my way to academic success. He was a person who never allowed me to give up.
Never giving up is precisely what Ethan Hunt does in the tense thriller Mission Impossible III. Ethan is a retired secret service operative working for IMF, a government organization tasked with high priority missions that are critical to national security. At his engagement party, he is summoned by Operations Director Musgrave to rescue Agent Lindsey Ferris, Ethan’s special forces protégé, who has been captured in Germany by Owen Davian, a black market arms dealer. The rescue is successful, but Lindsey dies when an explosive planted in her head detonates.
Ethan then decides to go directly after Davian, who is scheduled to appear in Vatican City where a deal involving the transfer of an unknown “rabbit’s foot” is in progress. In an elaborate ruse, Ethan and his team capture Davian. When Davian tells Ethan that he will brutally slay Ethan’s wife Julia when he has the opportunity, Ethan opens a bay on the plane and almost throws him out.
Regrettably for Ethan, Davian escapes en route to prison and now his threat becomes real. Fearing for his wife Julia, Ethan tries to protect her from Davian’s men, but he arrives too late to prevent her kidnapping.
Davian contacts Ethan and tells him to retrieve the “rabbit’s foot” in 48 hours or he will kill his wife. Ethan travels to Shanghai to locate and steal the rabbit’s foot from its current owner. At each step of the way, Ethan encounters what seem to be insurmountable obstacles, yet he is never deterred. From the first challenge to capture Davian in Vatican City, which has extremely heavy security systems in place, to the final confrontation with him in Shanghai, Ethan always finds a way to approach a problem or imminent threat and succeed. He never gives up. He lives in a treacherous reality, but never succumbs to pessimism.
The history of the Jews in many ways is a history of never giving up in the face of insurmountable challenges. The Chanukah holiday commemorates a festival when a superior military force wanted to defeat the Jews; but the Maccabees, inspired by their faith in God, led the Jews to military triumph. The key to their success was never giving up. The holiday of Purim, featuring the heroics of Ether and Mordechai, also celebrates a similar victory where the few triumph over the many.
Perhaps the most vivid example of not giving up and prevailing against impossible odds is the action of Nachshon, the son of Aminadav, who jumped into the Red Sea before it split, believing that somehow he would survive. The message: miracles can happen but only after we do our part to implement a solution. Ultimately, the outcome is in God’s hands.
To transform the unthinkable dream into a reality, we need a combination of confident preparation for the challenge we face and an overriding belief that God will help us achieve our goals. David Ben Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, expressed this idea poetically when he said: “in Israel in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.”
Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible III lives by that credo. He does not give up. Obstacles do not limit him because he knows that as long as there is life, there is the possibility of achieving the seemingly impossible.