GRIT / by Sarah Schwartz

Remember how last fall I said that my new work rhythm meant I was going to have more time to write?

Oops.

I know that the internet has been getting along just fine without my regular contributions, but regardless, I wish I had just a little more margin in my life to give to my corner of it, if only for myself.

Also, remember how last summer, in a you-wouldn't-believe-it-if-I-told-you unfolding of events, I was offered the job of my right now dreams, and received word that my masters program was reducing it's requirements, moving graduation from something I thought would happen on The 12th of Never, to something I can practically taste? Remember how it was all too good, too specific to be anything short of a reminder that I'm exactly where I am supposed to be, doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing?

Shortly after I settled in to my new job, I had lunch with a colleague (and friend) who introduced me to a project she had been working on in her not so spare time—GRIT.

GRIT, she explained, was an acronym for gifting, resilience, insight, and tenacity—characteristics she wanted to see cultivated in the young women at the university where we work, where research shows that despite performing (and in some cases, outperforming) their male peers academically, young women consistently underestimate their intelligence, skill sets, and leadership abilities, creating what social scientists refer to as the "confidence gap".

GRIT, she continued, would be an official tool of the university, a blog with content and resources aimed at closing that gap, and helping young women see themselves as they actually are; strong and capable, funny and wise, winsome, creative and bold. It's initial incarnation would be in the form of an online resource collective, with the hopes of it eventually turning in to a brick and mortar women's resource center.

Would I be willing to help get this thing off the ground, she asked?

***

If getting to be a part of GRIT was why everything seemed to move at the speed of molasses in the first half of my twenties—my masters program, my job opportunities—I'd do it again a thousand times over.

Because on a clear, chilly evening this past February, as the GRIT team and I filled coolers with LaCroix and set out boxes of blueberry donuts, young women poured into the space we rented for our official launch party.

Where did they all come from? we asked, eyes wide, and then filling with tears. Is this really happening?

The room was nothing short of electric. I spent most of the evening eavesdropping on conversations—young women swapping names, majors, and stories—offering encouragement, making each other laugh, and calling out the best in one other.

I didn't know there were other women asking these questions, or who felt this way.

I wish I had discovered something like this sooner.

This gives me so much hope.

Sisterhood is one of the most powerful forces on the planet, and that night, it made me want to slip off my shoes lest I disturb holy ground.

Later, I stood on the ledge of the room's brick fireplace, and invited them to open their hands as we prayed—

God of Sarah and Hagar,

Naomi and Ruth, Esther and Deborah,

God of Mary and Elizabeth, Mary and Martha,

Mary Magdalene, Lydia,

and all the unnamed women of scripture,

as you anointed these women

with the oil of faith and calling,

so anoint women everywhere.

As you blessed these women with finding

the courage and strength,

persistence and perseverance within them,

so bless women everywhere.

As you transformed the world

through the vision and work of these women,

continue to transform the world

through the vision and work of women everywhere.

 

From California to Florida, from Chile to Uganda,

may women continue to form and build community

in ways that birth justice, love and peace among us.

In their labor, keep them focused, strong,

steadfast and unwavering.

God, bless the women who continue to work tirelessly,

often unnoticed, but full of beauty and power,

for all manner of good.

Continue to make them vessels of your sustenance;

instruments of your peace;  an inspiration to all.

Amen.

(Erin Matteson)

***

So here I am, six months out from graduation, and the mysterious whatever is next—wholly overwhelmed by the timing and kindness of our behold-I-am-doing-a-new-thing God.

From time to time, in the months since the launch, a barista in the campus coffee shop, or a student worker behind the register at the bookstore, will ask if I'm a part of GRIT, and smile as she explains how it's the thing she didn't know she needed.

Our God is ever and always moving to bring about freedom for the unlikely and the left out—women in particular.

He knows what he is about.