Spiritual Grit

By on August 14, 2017

Can we compare American Grit to Spiritual Grit?

Our family had a few weeks of binge watching the reality show “American Grit”. This show is somewhat like “Survivor.” Highly athletic teams are pitted against each other, given obstacles and challenges they must defeat in order to survive each round. The team that wins one round gets immunity from a tougher challenge. Losing teams must each send one of their members to the “circus.”

The circus is a brutal test of individual strength and willpower. Its obstacle is always a surprise. One by one, members are plunged repeatedly into icy water until they suffer near hypothermia, or made to haul heavy bags of rocks and sand uphill until they expire.

The point of the circus is to eliminate the weakest team member, who will then go home.

The remaining members stay on the show, rejoining their team for the next challenge, and the process continues until all but one team remains, proving their true “grit.”

The show is strangely addictive. Not entertaining, really – it is too intense for that – but every one of us wanted to know who would make it: who would tough it out to the end? We each had our favorites, and we all quickly realized that the athletes who were proudest of their abilities at first were the ones who fell the soonest. (Proverbs 16:18 in action!)

We cheered for the humbler ones, crossing our fingers that they’d make it to the end. We got to know their personal stories, which inspired us. We decided which team’s coaches were the best, and who we’d want on our side if we were in their place.

Spiritual “Grit”

Not long after we finished the final episode, the Lord brought this show to my mind again. I was going through a particularly rough week and felt as though the enemy was unleashing the full force of his fury against me. Everything, it seemed, was going wrong. The house, the kids, the bills, even my spiritual life seemed determined to break me. I reached my emotional limit.

Suddenly, in my mind’s eye, I saw the “circus,” that reality-show place where an athlete is isolated, tested, and brought to the end of their strength. It is a test of endurance above all things, a test to see who will hold on the longest: you or your enemy. And although physical duress is required, in the final analysis, it is a battle of the mind. She who maintains peace and calm, who wills herself to continue no matter how difficult the situation feels, wins the circus.

How much like a “circus” my life seemed at that moment!  

Separating the Men from the Boys

I reminisced about what separated the winners from the losers on that show. Every athlete had remarkable accomplishments to their name: Olympic runners, deep-sea fishermen, personal trainers, weightlifters. Although some were better at certain physical tasks than others, the variety of obstacles on the show leveled the playing field. It wasn’t their strength that saved them.

Many of the athletes came from difficult backgrounds; those who made it this far had already overcome huge personal crises: loss of family members, childhood diseases, war injuries or racial prejudice. Personal struggles motivated them to succeed, but previous struggles did not guarantee success either.

Then I remembered. No one went to the circus totally alone. Each was permitted to have their team’s coach beside them. The ones who trusted their coach most in the moments of hardship were the ones who made it to the end.

What did the coach do?

He provided perspective. “Don’t give up now, kiddo, the contestant next to you is losing his grip!” He saw what you couldn’t see when you needed all your energy just to focus. He summed up the entire situation, not just your little part, and gave hope.

He motivated. “You can do this. You got this. I picked you because I believe in you. You’re gonna make it. You’re doing this for your kids, remember?” No critical words here, just encouragement and affirmation, even when he knew you were weakening. He knew you inside and out, knew your struggles, knew what you were fighting for, and reminded you of what you held dear.

He stayed beside you. The good coaches never left your side, never turned their back. The really good ones got down on your level, let you know they were there for you as long as you needed them there. You were their only priority, and they won when you won.

In short, the quality of the coach was the difference between a winner and a loser.

Funny, isn’t it? You’d think that Olympians would have more than enough strength and know-how to make it on their own. Yet in times of trial, no one is immune to the negative self-talk in their mind.

I think that sometimes, we feel spiritually like those athletes at the circus. We’re well-trained, well-prepared, strong and fit. We are motivated, secure, and know the risks. We are ready to fight for what is important to us and to God.

But we have an enemy who is equally committed to his cause, which is to take us out. Like a bad coach, he feeds us lies: “You’re never gonna make it. You don’t have the strength anymore. You just can’t hold on. No one understands anyway. Just give up now, it would be easier to ring the bell and go home.”

In the end, success in life boils down to one thing alone: who are you listening to? A good coach (the Holy Spirit) or a bad one?

“Spiritual grit” isn’t about being the strongest, the toughest, the hardest worker, or the nicest person. It isn’t even about being the most disciplined Christian on the block (although discipline helps!). It’s about listening to the right voice: God’s voice. Listening well – trusting and obeying – is what separates the men from the boys. If you can do this, you’ll have all the encouragement you need to make it on this “reality show” called life.

©Deborah Perkins / www.Hisinscriptions.com 

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Spiritual Grit