Christian Grit

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Yesterday, I had the type of day which could only be described as “a day of people.”

It began when I ran into a super sweet (and recently engaged!) friend at noon mass whom I haven’t seen in probably 3 or 4 years. Serendipitous timing (aka I was late and sat in the back) seated me right behind her and the class she teaches at a local Catholic school. It was truly special to see her so unexpectedly and to observe her with her students—it made me feel both very old (it used to be us sitting in school masses together!) and also blessed to know such good-hearted people.

Upon leaving mass, I headed to the airport to pick my mom and aunt up after their 10-day trip to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago—the way of St. James. At dinner last night, my mom recounted the trip to my dad and me, and told us that she and her sister and brother had shared a lot with one another while in Spain—both struggle and joy.

Our meal was interrupted when a neighbor stopped by our table to introduce herself. In our 15 minutes of conversation, we learned that years ago, she’d adopted a baby girl from overseas whom she’d later discover has a significant mental disability. Now, as a 22-year-old, her daughter is thriving, and while life has had its moments of difficulty, there’s much to be happy about.

Then, on the way home from the restaurant, I received a text from another very close friend. It was a beautiful picture of her, captioned, “just wanting to send you an update! down 105 pounds as of today!” Her weight loss journey has not been one without obstacles, but what an inspiring, faith-filled journey it has been. I am so proud of her courage and her perseverance. 

And in between all of this, I chatted with my sister briefly on the phone. I could hear the smile on her face from the moment she said ‘hello’ and was so happy at the joy in her voice as we talked about work, friends, and plans for our family reunion when she returns home during the month of May. 

Anyone who’s read my blog in the past has likely caught on that I’m a laughably emotional person. It’s both a blessing and a curse that I’m a chameleon when it comes to feelings—I seem to take on the emotions of everyone around me at any given moment. When life is going well, you won’t find anyone who’ll be happier for you than me—but don’t ever give me sad news in public, because I'll cry and it will be embarrassing for both of us. (JK, crying totally does not embarrass me at all.)

So naturally, I was feeling a little bit exhausted from all of the feeling that I did yesterday. It was a perfect day for it though, because the moments I shared with all of these different people gave me some perspective on a thought I've been mulling over for a few days now.

Earlier this week, I read an article called Is Grit Overrated?  and was intrigued at what might be described as the science of endurance.

What quality in a person makes him more likely to muscle through adversity over another? Is this quality learned, or are we born with it? Can it be predicted? Can it be harnessed? The article, based loosely on a book appropriately called Grit, attempts to address most of these questions. But in reading it once, and then a second time, and then a third time, I had a thought:

For Christians, these answers are simple. Christian grit is simply persistent faith.

In a book called Love & Salt, one of the authors says that Christians don’t have the luxury of giving up, because there is always hope in the Resurrection. I remember reading this and being struck by the painful truth of this statement.

How often do we have moments in life in which we’d like to simply go back to bed—maybe forever? But Christianity, and belief in Christ, does not offer us this option. To truly accept in our hearts that Christ became man and died for us so that we might one day have eternal life, means that we must actually live this life as though we owe it to Him—because, well, we owe it to Him

This concept—this perpetual hope in the Resurrection—takes so many different forms. It could be that we’re struggling, that we’re suffering and in the midst of a trying challenge, yet we carry on every day in hope, believing that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. 

Or it could be that we often fall prey to a certain sin. To fall repeatedly and yet continue to stand, pick up our cross, and carry on—this is the lifelong way of the cross. This is the mark of a Saint: a sinner who keeps on trying.

And these are the moments we’re most united with Christ—when we’re taking up our crosses, just as He did, and carrying on, despite being battered, tired, and discouraged. This is the face of Christian grit.

Each of us has highs and lows. Each of us has moments that we’re lying on the ground, beneath our heavy wooden cross, and wishing for it to be over with.

But for Christians, there is always hope. We know that salvation is at the top of the hill. 

Victory is in the cross.

When I was 15, I spent a summer in Michoacan, Mexico as a missionary. Something that the other girls and I would often say was “por las almas” or “for the souls.” In our own moments of weakness, when we were tired or doing chores we particularly hated or feeling homesick, we’d remind one another to offer our sufferings up “por las almas.”

It was that simple phrase which gave our low moments a purpose. We were no longer suffering in vain—we were suffering for the souls. And in this thought, there was hope. Through this ritual, we found hope in our sufferings, however small or menial they might have been. By offering our sufferings up for the souls in purgatory—"por las almas"—we found our own hope in the Resurrection.

I’ve found that my spiritual journey seems to come in themes. Recently, a theme in the lessons I’ve learned and in the life I’ve been surrounded by has been, to put it bluntly, everyone has their shit. 

We’ve all got stuff. We’ve all got stuff that makes us human, stuff that makes us sad, stuff that makes us screwed up. This is the plight of each of us as human beings in a fallen world, and we’ve got the original sin of Adam and Eve to thank for that.

But we’ve got Christ to thank for the hope that gets us through it. Through the cross, we can grit our teeth, muscle through, grin and bear it. 

With Christ, we’ve got our Christian grit—and there is victory in that.

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