Don’t you yet understand? Don’t you know by now that the everlasting God, the Creator of the farthest parts of the earth, never grows faint or weary? No one can fathom the depths of his understanding. 29 He gives power to the tired and worn out, and strength to the weak. 30 Even the youths shall be exhausted, and the young men will all give up. 31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
Think back, for a moment, to February 2011. If you are a senior, you are in 4th grade, probably working on your part for the Tennessee play or playing an intense game of kickball at recess. For our newest 6th graders, you are in PreK with Mrs. Lawo or Mrs. Lambert, maybe singing a-tootie-ta or going on a bear hunt. Those were good times. But in 2011 in Oklahoma City, Tony Allen is being interviewed after an exciting Grizzlies win, in overtime, against the Oklahoma City Thunder. As he is congratulated on winning the game, on the intensity of their effort, and on their persistence despite some players choosing to sit out, Allen says, “It’s just all Heart. Grit. Grind.” And a new era for the Memphis Grizzlies is born.
Grit and Grind became the mantra that characterized the Grizzlies basketball team. They played an ugly and unpopular brand of basketball. There were lots of missed shots, messy unsuccessful plays. The team was a team of Misfits. But they had something else: they were tenacious on defense with a refusal to back down or give up. They weren’t always glamorous, or popular, and definitely seen as rough around the edges. But grit and grind defined the rise of the Grizzlies to relevance in the NBA. Grit became part of the identity for Memphis as a city too. A city plagued by many hardships- poverty, crime, race relations. A city known as the place where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed. But Memphis is also a city which has refused to give up on itself or let adversity define who we are. Grit is in our soul. Memphis is a gritty city.
"Grit is what leads to success not in spite of, but because of challenges."
So why is having grit important? Dr. Angela Duckworth is professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a professor, scientist, and researcher who studies grit as a predictor of academic and professional success. She defines grit as a function of your ability to cope, along with the passion for long term goals. It requires stamina and endurance. Grit is what drives perseverance. From an academic standpoint, grit is a powerful predictor of future success. But grit also applies to how you live your life. God does not promise an easy road. Jesus teaches us that. In fact all great faith traditions teach us, in one way or another, that life will not always be smooth sailing. Life is difficult. You will make mistakes. You will fail. Loss will be a part of your life no matter how much grit and determination you have. Grit is how you keep going when you are cut from the team, fail the test, don’t get the part, or lose the award. Grit is why you show up when your team never wins, or when school is difficult, or when you don’t feel like being there. Grit is what leads to success not in spite of, but because of challenges.
You have all heard the stories of famous failures- people who overcome failures and exceptional circumstances to become famous or have a huge impact. Michael Jordan. Walt Disney. Bill Gates. Oprah. Each of these individuals had a dogged determination to not give up. They were rejected, they failed, they overcame obstacles. These are examples of extraordinary grit.
"Grit can be ordinary. And ordinary can be heroic."
But grit does not have to be extraordinary. You do not have to be the next multimillion-dollar basketball player or movie star or computer genius. Grit can be ordinary. And ordinary can be heroic.
Consider a salmon that swims upstream to spawn. Salmon swim up to 900 miles, facing fierce rapids, cascading waterfalls, and even famished grizzly bears. And if they make it after all that, they lay their eggs and then they die. But their species does not.
Or what about a tiny sparrow building a nest. Those little birds work tirelessly to gather grass and straw, strand by strand, flying back and forth for 6 days! I recently witnessed a little bird working on its nest day after day, trying to build its home in a light fixture on my porch. Every time she brought grass back to the nest, almost as much would fall out between the open spaces. But she kept at it. Trip after trip she flew back and forth until finally, finally enough of her materials took shape and she was able to rest. It was not long after this that I heard soft chirps emerging from that unlikely space. Life carrying on. Heroic.
But keep in mind, having grit does not mean you will win or that you will have success or that things will always work out the way you want them to. Grit and Grind never gave the Grizzlies a championship. Their post season play has been mostly underwhelming. They have only made it to the conference finals one time, and they lost every game. But grit made them different. Relevant. It gave our team and our city an identity. Something to believe in.
"Grit and hope go hand in hand. You must have hope to be able to be gritty, to not give up and to keep reaching for your goals, whatever they may be."
SO maybe winning isn’t the goal. Maybe grit is believing in something. Maybe grit is learning to believe in ourselves. The text today from the Old Testament is a message of hope and a message about grit: “but those who hope [in the Lord] will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Grit and hope go hand in hand. You must have hope to be able to be gritty, to not give up and to keep reaching for your goals, whatever they may be. God gave each one of us the extraordinary capacity for ordinary grit.
My wish for you, is that you can find that spark inside of you to not give up when things are hard, or when you are overwhelmed or when you feel like life is not fair. You are going to work hard and sometimes you are going to have to keep working harder.
Find your grit. YOU are worth it.
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