Find Your Confidence and Keep It

Okay, so maybe posting that “Rough Road Ahead” photo the day before U.Va.’s home opener wasn’t the best idea. Or offering that prayer for perseverance. I kinda feel like I jinxed us.

Honestly, though, I think we can all be a little encouraged by U.Va.’s loss. Because getting all pumped up – and then having things go utterly sideways – could happen to anyone. And when I saw the headline in the paper this week (the one that said U.Va. needed to “find some confidence”), all I could think was, “Yeah, me too.”


I can’t tell you how many times I come up with a plan (one that I think God has inspired or endorsed) and then, almost before I get started, I find myself getting clobbered. Unexpected obstacles, frustrating delays, and stunning defeats don’t just happen in football. And it can be easy, when you find yourself on the wrong end of a whomping, to wonder if what you’re doing is worth it.

I think it was Vince Lombardi who said that failure isn’t getting knocked down; it’s when you don’t get back up again. That’s a good one. But I like what the writer of Hebrews (who, incidentally, would have made a great football coach) said even more. He knew that those early believers had faced insults, persecution, and suffering. He figured they’d keep taking the hits. But he told them to stand their ground, and he offered this game plan:

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. (Hebrews 10:35-36)

And so here’s thing thing:  If you feel like God has given you a job to do, or if maybe your mission isn’t as easy as you hoped it would be (and I’m looking at you, U.Va.), don’t be discouraged. Instead, anchor your trust in God, get back in the fight, and stand your ground.

And, whatever you do, do not throw away your confidence. It will be richly rewarded.

We do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. (Hebrews 10:39)

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Wahoowa and Welcome Bronco!

The Olympics are over. I am always a little sad to see them go, but never more than this year, when what’s left in their wake is…November. As in, the election.

I’d consider tossing the TV, except for one thing.


More specifically, U.Va. Football. The first game is Saturday.

Now, I realize that not everyone gets as up for the season as our family does, and that U.Va.’s record (34-61 in the past eight years) is not exactly something to start The Wave over, but hope springs eternal. Especially when you have a new coach.


For those who don’t follow sports, Bronco Mendenhall came to The University from BYU where, over the past 11 seasons, he led a team that became one of only a handful of programs in the entire country to make it to a bowl game every year. Every year! For comparison purposes (and to bring the non-sports people up to speed), during that same time period U.Va. went to…less.

Maybe all those bowl games happened because the BYU players made their beds. I don’t know, but I heard Bronco speak earlier this summer and he said that, statistically speaking, just making your bed means that you will be 30% more effective during the day. He also talked about how he, his wife, and their three teenaged boys are “literally and figuratively closer than ever” after spending six months in an RV instead of bunking in a hotel while their new digs in Charlottesville were being renovated.

(Six months. In a camper. With a mom, a dad, and three strapping young men, all of whom lived out of a backpack and a small carry-on. Mrs. Bronco – who, I gather, came up with the plan – is my new hero.)

Anyhow, the conversation eventually turned to football, to things like “fiery execution” and “position mastery,” as well as the “swift and certain” consequences that Bronco said would follow both good and bad decisions. With every sentence that came out of the coach’s mouth, I found myself mentally putting another touchdown on the board. And, being the mother-in-law to two Virginia Tech grads, I could hardly wait for the Q&A. Was this the year, I wondered, that my beloved Wahoos would finally take down the Hokies?

You can hear my question – and see Bronco’s answer – by clicking here.

Or I can just tell you what the coach said. Painful as it was to hear, he noted that U.Va. hasn’t beaten Virginia Tech in football in twelve years, and that (given those stats) the in-state match-up could hardly be considered a “rivalry.” Not only that but, until we upped our game, Bronco wasn’t even sure we oughta be calling ourselves “the” University of Virginia.

Ouch. Talk about speaking the truth in love.

But things are about to change! In addition to the bed-making thing, the new coach has all sorts of strategies for getting his guys to perform, both on and off the field. If a player misses a class, for example, the “exchange rate” for that choice is 350 burpees (those awful push ups where, between each one, you have to jump – and in Bronco’s world, the jump is onto a 36-inch-high box – and reach for the sky). After each practice, the athletes are expected to take their own pulse, just to be sure they are still alive. Noting that all players will need to prove that they have what it takes to wear the U.Va. jersey (the mantra is “earned, not given”), Bronco’s plan is to ensure that opponents will be “mentally exhausted from the physical pressure.” Which is not, actually, unlike motherhood.

So I think it will work.

And, come Saturday, I will be right there in Scott Stadium, cheering for Bronco and his guys. And being so glad, I just have to say, that he is our coach, instead of our savior.

Can you imagine? What if we had to earn the right to wear the name of Christ? What if the Christian life meant having to check, at the end of each day, to see if we were still breathing? What if, every time we did something wrong, we had to do 350 burpees? Even without the box-jump, I’d throw in the towel and just head straight to hell.

My hat is off to the U.Va. players. I can’t even begin to think what this blazing hot summer was like, as they won the right to show up on that field. I am grateful for their effort, and I think that “earned, not given” is a great way to play football.

And that “given, not earned” is a great way to play life.


For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

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Thank you, Mike London

Hebrews 11, informally known as the Bible’s “Hall of Faith,” catalogs a long and glorious list of Old Testament heroes, people who followed God and did what he asked them to do, even when they weren’t sure of the outcome. And, in fact, things didn’t always go the way most of these folks thought or hoped they would. Sure, some of ’em got to cross the Red Sea on dry land or shut the mouths of lions, but others were tortured, stoned, and (v. 37) “sawed in two.” These people led exemplary lives of faith and yet, near the end of the chapter, we learn that “none of them received what had been promised.”

That might sound like a faith downer, but it’s not. It’s a set-up for the Hebrews 11 punchline, the very last verse in the chapter: “God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”

God had planned something better.

12896_spfootballlondonchufReading those words today, I couldn’t help but think about U.Va. Coach Mike London. Widely regarded as a top-notch recruiter and a powerful influence for good (he served as a father figure and role model to many of his players, asking that they go to class, show class, and treat people with dignity and respect), London did just about everything you want a coach to do. Everything, that is, except win a lot of football games. On that score, at least, things didn’t turn out the way U.Va. fans hoped that they would. And, after six years of losing a whole lot more than he won, London resigned on Sunday.

You’d think the victory-starved fans would be happy to have London gone (and maybe that one guy who sits two rows behind us and spends most of the game screaming about the penalties can finally give it a rest). But most folks (including Robbie, who groaned every time the third-and-long screen pass didn’t work, which was pretty much every time) seem a little sad this week. We know we’re losing a good man.

After Saturday’s loss to Virginia Tech (and yes, we were there, with our two new Hokie sons-in-law, who had the decency to keep quiet and just eat the leftover charcuterie during our post-game tailgate), London gave what turned out to be a farewell speech. He said he was proud of his players, both for their character and for the things they had dealt with during an admittedly challenging season. “It’s important,” he said, “that they understand this is a tough game, you win, you lose, you try to get better, you try to move forward, but it’s a tough game. There’s consequences for a lot of things. I just told them, you’re going to be a husband, a father, a son, an employee, an employer, much longer than you’re going to be a football player. Your identity is not tied into being just a football player. I get it, we’re graded on wins and losses, I understand that, but you’re so much more than that.”

Word is that players and fans have heaped messages of love and support on Coach London, both in person and via social media. Having watched pretty much every game he coached (except for William & Mary this year, cuz we figured Hillary might notice if we didn’t show up for her wedding), I’d like to add my thoughts to the mix:

Dear Coach London,

Thank you for all of the good things that you brought to U.Va. football.

I’m thinking about you today, grateful for a man who knows that his identity is not just as a football coach. You are what you’ve modeled for your guys: You are a good husband, father, son, and employee. And, in the things that really matter – the lessons that last, game after game, season after season – you are a mighty good coach.

I know that you love the Lord and trust his hand in your life, which is why I hope you will get it when I point to Hebrews 11:40 and say that God has planned something better. U.Va. hired you to win games; God called you to win lives. That’s a calling you have pursued with excellence, and it’s one that won’t stop when you walk out of Scott Stadium.

Hebrews 11 is full of people just like you, men and women who followed God, spent their lives on behalf of other people, and lived by faith when they couldn’t see any evidence of the things they hoped for. They might not have known the fruits of their labors, but they knew back then what we still know today: God will one day make us perfect. Their faith, your faith, and our faith will finally come together to make a completed whole. The best is yet to come.

May the Lord richly bless you and your family as you continue to follow him. The best really is yet to come.

And in the meantime, thanks for the memories.

Jodie Berndt










(Many thanks to the Cavalier Daily for the photo of Coach London.)



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