Life Lessons From Sparring

I suited up as I do semi-frequently on Tuesday nights. I put on my chest guard, boots, gloves, mouth piece and helmet. I got out on the the floor and warmed up with one of the 2nd degree black belts.

It was sparring night. But this night left me with a picture that I can’t seem to get out of my head.  

After warming up with this particular black belt, I started sparring with her. I kept getting nailed in the head. I would try to block the hits, but after the first punches, I’d find myself a little discombobulated. I was having a hard time adjusting myself to get on top.

After this fight, my instructor said I should spar another 2nd degree black belt. I really didn’t want to because I find him intimidating.

The sparring began and sure enough I kept getting hit in the head- one hit, another, then another. I’d get to the point where I’d turn my head because I didn’t know what else to do. And, I was getting weary of getting hit. This 2nd degree said, “stop looking away, you’ll end up hurt”

I looked back to see everyone in my class watching this fight. My instructor spoke up and said, “Christi, when you keep getting hit, you have to lean in and grab your opponent”

It’s against natural instincts to lean into someone whose throwing punches. Our first reaction is to turn or to run away. However, since my instruction is a 5th degree black belt, I did what he said.

The sparring resumed and the punches started coming. Before I got discombobulated, I leaned in, rested my head on my opponents shoulder and held on. By doing that, I could no longer get hit. The punches seized. But it was as though we were wrestling. This 2nd degree black belt didn’t want to be held down and I didn’t want anymore shots to the head. We were fighting for our own wills.

I felt like that has been a picture of the past few years. It has felt like one punch after the next. I want to flee , but I know I can’t, and yet, I don’t know how to respond.

If I’m being honest, my first reaction, to the loss of my Dad, wasn’t to lean into the punches. I believe everything that happens in life goes through the hands of a sovereign God. So the punches that have taken place went through His hands before they hit me.

The first reaction I had was shock. I was (and am) discombobulated by this punch. But before and after my Dad there have been more punches. But this picture of that night in sparring keeps coming back to me…

I need to lean in. I’ve needed to wrestle with questions. Why? What’s the purpose for all this pain? Why so much heartache? Why so many closed doors? Why the standstill? Whose benefiting from all this grief?

I feel as though I’ve been holding on trying to shake God for some kind of sense for the loss of my Dad. I haven’t been able to say much, and when you’re grabbing your opponent, you don’t speak. You’re just trying to regain your composure from the blows you’ve taken. You’re trying to survive. It’s your strength against your opponents.

This past week I also remembered the fight doesn’t end by hanging on. You cannot win a fight by clinging on to your opponent. You’ll get called out. You have to let go and get back into the fight.

But, hanging on and leaning in is still apart of the fight. Every relationship will go through ups and downs. The same is true for our relationship with God. Tough things happen and we need to wrestle through them. I would be lying if I said, I haven’t been struggling. I’d be lying if I told you I haven’t doubted that any good would come from this. I would be lying if I told you I haven’t felt like giving up. I would be lying if I told you I haven’t had some days when I don’t want to get out of bed.

As I write this I’m reminded of Peter in Matthew 26:35. “But Peter declared, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the other disciples said the same.” The next day, Peter denied Jesus.

Death and suffering changes people. Peter thought he could be a disciple of Jesus on his own. I think, subconsciously or even consciously, I did too.

Things started changing in my heart about a week ago when I realized I didn’t have enough to get me through. I was keeping God at a distance. Attempting to hold Him like I had in sparring. I don’t want anymore hits. I can’t take another blow. I was falling into a deeper and darker hole. Until the thought popped into my head, “You don’t have enough faith”.
And it is true…

1st Timothy 2:13
if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself. 
I can do nothing on my own, I cannot handle this loss alone. I cannot handle closed doors alone, but God never asked me to. He said to come to Him. Lay it down. Cry it out and walk with Him. So, I started waking up and asking for help. After that, I read one verse. My mind can’t process a whole chapter at the moment, bug I can hold on to a verse.

I also think it’s okay to wrestle with God and wrestle with the questions. Life is hard and this side of eternity some thing will not make sense to us. In Genesis 32 Jacob wrestled with God. In verse 28 it says, “Then the man said,’Your name will not longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome’”

  • I looked up the word overcome and it means: “to prevail, endure, have power, be able” 
  • I also looked up Israel and it means, “God Prevails” 

At the end of the day, I am human. I’ve struggled with being on this road that God has allowed me to be on. But struggling and giving up are two different things. Because God has not given up on me and gives me everything I need when I ask, I can keep putting one foot in front of the other.


“When God calls us to wrestle with him, there’s always more going on than we first understand and God always uses it to transform us for good.” -Jon Bloom

The truth of the matter is, I am in a battle and it’s not against God. Yet, sometimes I wrestle with God’s will because, if I’m being honest, right now, I don’t really like it. But the more I try and fight for my will the more miserable I become.

As hard as it has been I do pray that just like in Jacob’s case, God prevails in my life. He knows what He’s doing and knows the plans and I do not. For now, I will keep waking up and asking for help because I cannot do it on my own.
Song of the week: You Pursue, by Out of the Dust

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