As a volleyball coach, or a coach of any sport for that matter, we know that we need to teach our athletes the skills of the game. We practice these skills over and over (and over) again. We trust that the skills that we have taught them and worked on will prevail in the competition. We know, however, that the other coach has also taught his or her athletes and sometimes it is a hard-fought competition. In these games, we know what can set one team apart from another is its ability to push through those more difficult moments. Perseverance. Fortitude. Grit.
Grit has been the theme of my season with my volleyball team. It was the focus of our retreat. Angela Duckworth wrote a fantastic book entitled, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.” She writes about how she spent time at West Point trying to help them to figure out what made some cadets succeed and some fail. All of them were top scholars, highly recommended and in good shape. The difference was some of them had the ability to push through the struggles, the hard workouts, the tough classes, the early mornings, and long days and some of them did not have that drive. Grit. The dictionary defines grit as “strength of character” but I think the title of her book is a better definition: the power of passion and perseverance.
Grit is not something left for sports or school or activities. Grit is essential to our faith. In her book she writes, “One form of perseverance is the daily discipline of trying to do things better than we did yesterday.” We all know that we are going to have times of doubt, times of spiritual laziness, and times when we just outright say no to what God is asking us to do. But those are not moments that we just call it quits. Those are the moments that we promise ourselves and God that we will do better tomorrow. Tomorrow we will be kinder with our words, we will reach out in love instead of anger, we will be thankful to God for all He has given us, and most importantly, we will reach out for God’s grace in the Sacraments.
Listening to KLOVE radio the other day, I heard a new song from TobyMac that spoke so richly or grit in our faith. He sang:
“Cause when my world broke into pieces
You were there faithfully
When I cried out to You, Jesus
You made a way for me
I may never be the same man
But I’m a man who still believes
When I cried out to You, Jesus
You were there faithfully.”
Grit in our faith is recognizing we need to cry out to Jesus. It’s reaching out to the one who is love, to remind us what love is. He is there, faithfully, waiting for us to reach out for the strength to keep growing. Duckworth reminds us, “It isn’t suffering that leads to hopelessness. It’s suffering you think you can’t control.”
His suffering reminds us that there is grace in suffering. It does not matter how many times we fail; it matters that we keep trying to do it right.
Anchor columnist Amanda Tarantelli has been a campus minister at Bishop Stang High School in North Dartmouth since 2005. She is married, a die-hard sports fan, and resides in Cranston, R.I. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.