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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Grit / Glory

I'm a mom who prays for Glory.

And unlike one of my friends, who responded to her son's match-winning glory goal as an answer to her prayer, my prayers along these lines don't seem to get the answers I would hope for. It isn't very noble, but in my heart I've struggled with that.

This weekend I started to get a glimpse, that while I'm hoping for glory, God is working on grit.

Caleb's final game of his high school career was Friday afternoon, the Semi-finals in the Association of International Schools of Kenya league. It was an exciting match, extremely close, with passionate fans and reversals of fortune as one team went ahead, and then the other. We ended regulation time 2-2, but then the opponents scored in the first five-minute OT period. In spite of losing, it would have been a memorable end . . . except that Caleb hardly played. Perhaps he would not have been subbed in at all if the other boy who plays the same position hadn't chosen to leave the field, winded or mildly injured I'm not sure, and the team and coach yelled for C to go on. But within a few minutes the other boy had recovered, C was off, and that was that. He's fast, smart, accurate in passing, dedicated, tireless, but not as physically large as the other boy, and the ability to overpower, push, and take hard shots from far out is highly valued on the team. So in key games like this, he sits on the bench. I felt bad for him. But that was just me. After the game, Caleb has two comments. One, an admiring observation that the boy he "competes" with for the position played so well, had a great game. And two, that he really loves his team. No complaint, no bitterness. Once again I needed to learn from my kids. I've been hoping for that moment of glory, the goal scored, the key pass, the unforgettable save. Instead Caleb has learned a lesson in team support, good attitude and perseverance. I also found out yesterday he applied to manage the girls' varsity team, a big time commitment to a sport he won't even get to play, hopefully to spend more time with his sister if she is chosen. Another sign that he supports the coaches and the program. He was also inducted in the NHS this past week, after being rejected 3 times he went ahead and applied a 4th time. That boy has grit, and that grit will take him further in life than a glorious reputation.

Jack's final game was glorious, for the team at least. They thought they would not make it to the play-offs, but scraped by. Then they won semi-finals, and on Saturday won the JV-level finals for the league. The coach had even commented that he hoped Jack would score a goal on his dad's birthday . . and he came so close, we all jumped in the air cheering, until the ball bounced off the post at the last second. Once again it was his friends who got the glory. Each game that Jack plays he comes away more determined to improve. He watches football whenever he can, thinks about it, talks about it, practices. He has three more years to develop in size, speed, pubertal mass, skill. Maybe a bit more success this early on would boost his confidence, but it might have also taken the edge off his drive to improve. He does not yet have the grit that Caleb does, but I hope it is developing.

A couple months ago Scott came across a NYT article about a school in NYC that is trying to redefine success in terms of character development rather than test scores. They looked at characteristics that predicted future competence, and the first one was just what I've been talking about, grit. Grit that comes from struggle, from some experience with failure and disappointment.

And as I've pondered all these things in my heart, a Bible story came to mind. I'm not the only mother who would like to see her sons pushed ahead, recognized for the amazing people that they are. In Matthew 20, Zebedee's wife puts her request in to Jesus, that her two sons be honored with high positions in the Kingdom. I'm sure that's the same thing I pray. Jesus answers that the path to glory takes serious grit. Can they drink the cup of wrath, pain, judgement on behalf of the world? Can they bury themselves, even die? In the Kingdom reversal, leaders are servants, who seek sacrifice not glory. Glory is a consequence of faithful perseverance, not a goal.

I doubt I'll ever be cured of praying for people to make the team, pass the test, get the SAT score or college acceptance. But I'm beginning to suspect that there are more important prayers as we put our kids in God's hands, prayers He's answering even if I don't really have the courage to pray them. Caleb has been teaching us this since he was a fetus with his life on the line, but I guess 16 years haven't been enough to really get it.

Praying for grit, and trusting God for glory.

1 comment:

Andy Steere said...

Love this article, so much. When Scott told me about that NYT 'success and grit' article I looked it up, and have been pondering the 6 value groups and 24 character strengths that the original research found as common across history and cultural groups...fascinating. I was struck by how they all seemed lifted from the pages of the Bible (certainly Proverbs), and how 'if something is true in the Kingdom, it's true everywhere'. Great stuff!