Today was supposed to be easy, chanted the chorus in my head as my throat tightened and I fought back angry tears. It was supposed to be easy. It was supposed to be easy.

We began this school year—yet again—with significant loss. As many of you may have heard, our Director of Development, Troy Dokter, died recently of the cancer he fought so valiantly and with such positivity for the last five years. We miss him. And we are even now beginning to see just how much. His corner office sits dark, cleared just last week of his small relics, the poster of love and prayers from his sister-in-law, Sheila Dokter’s 1st grade Rose Park class taken down from the wall. So we as a school system are concerning ourselves once again with how do we mourn honestly and publicly, while also continuing to testify to our students and community of Christ’s love, His sacrifice, and the complete and joyous gift that it is. This essay was written by a graduated senior and track state champion, Lizzie Bruxvoort ’19, after reading Frederick Buechner’s Godric in Mr. Hiskes’ College English Literature class last year. It is a blessed reminder that somehow, even through our weaknesses, God’s grace is poured out, and will continue to be. And that He gives strength yet, as well, for the grind where we don’t always immediately see all grace.

I remember the first time I cried because of a workout. It was 33 degrees and sleeting so hard you needed windshield wipers for your eyes. I stood at the startline for the 300, drowning in my rain soaked clothes and my bad attitude. Just an hour before, our meet had been cancelled due to the bad weather, and we’d all cheered. Before our celebration was complete, we’d paused to hear the daily workout projection from a senior who often seemed to know the workout even before the coaches did. “Not a chance he has us run in this,” she’d said, “It’d just be unhealthy.”

Confident, we’d walked out of the locker room with short sleeves and high hopes of a warm, easy run inside. We’d enjoyed about two minutes of our wishful thinking before we were sent back into the locker room where we left our shorts and optimism behind. We waved the warm school goodbye and walked reluctantly towards a workout with so many 300s I’ve repressed the exact number from my memory.

The air was so cold it was hard to breathe. Half-way through the workout everything was frozen but my legs, which burned. Our coach’s hand went down signaling the start of yet another 300. I took off, pouring out everything I had, including my negative attitude. I heard my split as I crossed the finish line. Slow. Again. I couldn’t breathe. I collapsed in a puddle, daring it to try to get me more wet and miserable than I already was. Today was supposed to be easy, chanted the chorus in my head as my throat tightened and I fought back angry tears. It was supposed to be easy. It was supposed to be easy.

I felt cheated.

In some ways this year, I’ve felt cheated at Holland Christian. I’m not sure when exactly, but somewhere along the line I was led to believe it would be easy—a relationship with Jesus, that is. I’m positive no one explicitly said that from the chapel stage or in one of my Bible classes, and I’m fairly sure that sentiment is not the belief of most, if not all, of the teachers, chapel speakers, and others that spiritually lead this school. No one ever lied to me or intentionally led me astray. Instead, I believe my not-so-uncommon misconception was created by a culture that tries to make a relationship with Jesus sound appealing by making it sound simple. They do this by focusing on a very true, very beautiful reality of a relationship with Jesus, which is grace. But it’s time to stop pretending that grace is the goal. God’s gift of grace is designed to be our condition not our ambition.

We are all in desperate dependence on grace. We will never outgrow our need for grace since “nothing human’s not a broth of false and true” (Buechner 31). St. Godric understood his reliance on God’s grace, but he also understood that this reliance was not the sum of their relationship. Grace does not make a saint. The gift of grace is open to anyone, but not everyone goes down in history as a saint. Grace is the reality that equips us for the race, but it doesn’t necessarily give us the courage to continue chasing after our call. Sinners are saved by grace, but saints are shaped by grit.

As a middle distance runner, I’d like to think that I know a thing or two about grit. The first thing I know is this: grit does not feel glamorous. Grit is needed more often in seasons of failure than seasons of flourishing. Grit is what gets me out of bed before the sun rises on summer vacation to get in an eight mile run before it hits 80. Grit is what hauls me off my knees after hurling on the side of the track. Grit is what drives me to the finish line, even after the race has gotten messy. Grit will do the same for all of us who dare to believe that we have what it takes to become the saints God has called us to be.

A relationship with God was not intended to be simple, but satisfying. It’s a paradox. In part, God requires nothing of us, as “God’s love’s all gift, for God has need of naught” (48). Yet, God also requires everything. He requires us to sacrifice every ounce of that nothing we have to offer, in order to be used for something. God continually asks us to offer up our trivial gifts to him until we “can give to Jesus nothing that I have, for I have nothing left to give” (110). Jesus didn’t need to make his mission simple to draw people to the call. Just being with Jesus was enough for countless believers to brave the high stakes that Jesus laid out for sainthood. Jesus is still enough for followers like us today.

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But it’s time to stop pretending that grace is the goal. God’s gift of grace is designed to be our condition, not our ambition.

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That day that I sat down in a puddle half-way through my 300s and cried was the closest I’ve ever come to quitting track. Maybe I would have if my coach hadn’t tapped me on the shoulder, pulled me up out of my puddle, looked me right in the eyes, and said, “Lizzy, you can be done if you want, but your grit is what I love so much about you.”

I stared in disbelief at this comment because I felt the exact opposite of gritty in that moment, but that’s who he believed I was, and so when he looked at me crying in a puddle, grit is what he saw. So, on that 35 degree day with slapping sleet and pooling puddles, I marched to the starting line and did the rest of my 300s. I didn’t hit a single split, but I finished. That’s the thing about grit, it’s not about the production, it’s about the process.

God is a lot like my coach. He looks at us in our puddle of sin, offers his hand, and says, “saint.” When we feel as far from the way God sees us as possible, grace is the reminder of our identity.

Let us be a people who celebrates grace, but let us also be people who live with grit. May we rise above the mistaken belief that a life of faith will be easy and remember that the hope of salvation brings with it the hard work of sanctification.

May we rise above the mistaken belief that a life of faith will be easy, and remember that the hope of salvation brings with it the hard work of sanctification.