Thursday, September 26, 2019

Gaining from the Grit and the Grind

One of football’s unique appeals is that teams play only one game a week, which means players have six days to prepare and fans have just as many days to anticipate, analyze and agonize. To build excitement for the next game, a lot of universities have their media departments produce “hype videos” showing clips from practices and games recently played.

My team, the Ohio State Buckeyes, create their own hype videos, filled with athletes sweating during training sessions, making spectacular plays, and participating in celebrations afterward. One recent one carried a tag line I liked: “It’s not the swag and the shine – it’s the grit and the grind.”

We as fans only get to see the finished product, our team performing on Saturdays and hopefully, capturing a victory. But as the video reminds us, big moments and gamesmanship are only possible because of hard work – the blood, sweat and tears we so often hear about – throughout the year and every week before each game. 

I can’t help but think there’s a lesson in this for each of us, even if we have never donned a football helmet, shoulder pads or the colorful uniform of good ole State U. Because as much as we like to revel in our accomplishments and life’s successes, most of the time they’re not the result of “luck” but rather the “grit and grind” of striving toward a cherished goal.

Take marriage, for example. On the wedding day, bride and groom are glowing, grinning from ear to ear, eager for the ceremony and reception to end so they can enjoy their first moments of “happily ever after.” Unfortunately, honeymoons don’t last and the sometimes grim realities of every day start to set in. Now the hard work begins.

When God declared, “a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24), He didn’t guarantee a perpetual picnic. When they vowed to stay united “for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health,” they became destined to experience some of both. And for the guy, the admonition, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25), at times seems like the impossible mission. Maybe the words “grit and grind” should be added to the vows to inject a measure of reality.

For many of those couples, sooner or later children will be added to the equation, bringing grit and grind into a whole new dimension. In an age when some parents regard smartphones and tablets as technological babysitters, God’s calling for mom and dad is to teach them, lead them and guide them so they will grow up to become responsible, fruitful adults. 

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 tells us, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Parenting isn’t supposed to be a passive, easygoing experience. Often it amounts to hard, intentional work – but work looking toward a positive outcome.

Finally, there are the three other major areas of our lives – personal, professional and spiritual. The Scriptures have much to say about these, but its teachings could be summed up in two passages.

When a Pharisee, a Jewish religious leader, asked Jesus which of the commandments was the greatest, He responded, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself”” (Matthew 22:37-39). Pretty simple, huh? Just follow those two commandments perfectly and all will be well. Yeah, right. Easier said than done! That’s where the grit and grind part comes in.

The other passage concerns everything we do, whether we’re on the job, digging in the garden, talking on the smartphone or spending time on the computer: 
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him…. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:17, 23-24).

There you have it, in a biblical nutshell. Understand now what I mean by the grit and grind of everyday life? Part of us wants to cry out, “But I can’t do that!” That’s why it’s so reassuring to read what the apostle Paul wrote, about himself and us: “I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). 

We can’t – but He can, through us! If we’re willing to put in the hard work, empowered by the Lord, it’s bound to show for others to see.

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