I wanted St. Peter’s to go all the way. Of course, I’d never heard of the school before March Madness began. I caught their unexpected victory over Kentucky and couldn’t help but pull for the little commuter school in Jersey City. Even when they took down my bracket winner, Purdue, I cheered them on and celebrated their win. There’s something about underdogs that gives us hope.
We want the little guy to win, for there to be one time in the grand scheme of things when the unexpected happens and the least obvious turns into the victor. The frog becomes a prince. The cinder girl a princess, and a hobbit saves all of Middle Earth. But underdogs don’t just happen. They arrive at the threshold of victory after a long journey. And they stand before greatness wondering the same thing all of us are thinking. Can they really do it? Do they have what it takes?
We live in a world where rising up against the machine is near impossible. Giants no longer fall. Dreams stay out of reach. Our best efforts lie at the bottom of the slush pile. Behind us, a quiet whisper gives words to our fear. “Can she do it?” “Does he have what it takes?”
And we have to decide what we will do with that.
As an experienced underdog, I have two suggestions that might help in the journey.
First, you have to: Know who you are.
The world doesn’t define you. Lost contests, long days, and little recognition can make it difficult to remember how you fit into your spot on the earth. We want other people to make it easy for us. Tell us who we are, notice us. But they won’t always come through with the encouragement we need. One minute they’re cheering us on, and the next, they’re nodding their heads and saying they didn’t figure we could actually win. They’re a fickle bunch, and they don’t get to tell you who you are. That’s your job to figure out. Who do you want to be? What do you want to do? The journey to self-discovery may take years, even a lifetime, but it will be worth it.
And that leads me to my second suggestion: Know who you belong to.
Everyone thought David was an underdog when he stood before Goliath, but that story was never about what David could do. It was about the God in whom he believed. David’s heart belonged to Yahweh, the creator of the universe. And the same can be true for you. God wants to call you his own. He’s deemed you precious. Will you trust him with your life? We all belong to something. For some, it’s ourselves. Others belong to their jobs or their ambitions. There are scads of things we can surrender our lives to without even realizing that’s what we’re doing. Why not give God a chance? He has an even better story for you than you can imagine.
Both of these suggestions are things you can do—choices you need to make. And that’s the long journey of the underdog. We don’t stand on the doorstep of unexpected victory without first having traversed the mountains and valleys of discovery.
Journey onward, fellow traveler. The best is yet to come.