My husband and youngest son are watching highlights from the Ultimate Fighting Championships in the other room.
“It’s a bloody battle!” crows the 12-year-old.
I peeked in a minute ago. There’s a lot of sweat and blood, and grunting and bruising. There’s enough bodily contact and skin exposure to warrant a PG rating.
“He’s holding the armpit, and pushing the face forward…” says the announcer (with a bit of that same 12-year-old glee in his tone.)
Hmm. Is this where we get the notion that fighting is glamorous? The cold day we realize happy endings are not always guaranteed in this broken world is a difficult day for the human soul. The day we realize that daily living is going to require us to battle it out with forces both seen and unseen that are bent on our destruction is perhaps even more disconcerting.
Paul writes to Timothy, his protege, and tells him he must “fight the good fight of faith.” Timothy, at the time Paul wrote to him, was ready to throw in the proverbial towel and call it quits. But Paul reminds Timothy it’s not the end of the fight, nor the absence of a fight, that he’s to strive for. It’s the good fight.
Good fight? Those words sound like an oxymoron to me. I have boys, and when they fight it’s not good. Ever. So what on earth is Paul talking about when he says to fight the good fight of faith?
Faith fights take many forms. It can be a decision to stand in the face of opposition, or to yield your pride for the sake of peace. It can be physical — eating right, exercising, sickness, injury. Or mental — depression, fear, anxiety, confusion. Simply put, a faith fight is any conflict in life where you have to work to keep your life, your health, your marriage, etc. from being derailed by circumstances.
How do you respond to the fights you face? Are you a victim who lies down on the mat and waits for the ref to count to ten? Are you an escape artist who jumps over the ropes and runs out of the arena? Or do you stand your ground, quivering in your boots, but determined to do battle with whatever has come against you, no matter how long it takes and regardless of the eventual outcome?
Only the third option qualifies as a “good fight.” Ask any boxing enthusiast: No one wants to watch a boxer who’s defeated before he gets in the ring, or one who’d rather forfeit than throw a punch. Just like the UFC, a good fight is one where the participants get messy and sweaty and bleed a little or a lot. There’s a lot of snot and saliva involved. And both parties are in it for all they’re worth.
I’m not sure where I got the idea that I should be able to fight the good fight of faith without breaking a nail or a sweat, without springing a leak from either end in response to pain or terror, without dragging around unshowered and unsmiling in the modern woman’s version of sackcloth and ashes–the sweatsuit. In fact, a good fight is remarkably unattractive. And if you want to be a good fighter, you can’t be afraid of getting dirty or looking ugly, both in training and in the ring.
This has been a challenging week. I’ve been warring with a bout of discouragement and depression. Depression is not an unusual phenomenon for people this time of year, but it frustrates me because I don’t have a “good” reason for it. (Is there ever a “good” reason for depression?)I haven’t wanted to blog, because who wants to be a downer for everyone’s holiday fun? It’s easier to crawl in a hole and nurse your wounds than it is to show your bruised and battered face to friends and family.
But today I realized something. After weeping last night for a blogging-buddy who lost a beloved pet, and then weeping again today upon hearing the news that one of my fellow bloggers has received a cancer diagnosis… while I fight my own battle, and they fight theirs, we’re all members of the same gym. We’re all in training, or in the ring, all the time.
Sometimes we get to have mass battles where we all join together against a mutual enemy. In those times, fighting seems exhilarating, exciting. But most of our battles are fought in private, with enemies who sneak in to our living rooms and bedrooms in the wee hours of the morning. Those are the battles where we need to take heed to Paul’s exhortation to Timothy: fight the good fight. Get in there and do battle. If not for your own sake, then do it for the sake of those who will come after you. We’re surrounded by those who’ve gone before us through the same valleys, and by those who’ll watch the replays of your rounds in the ring for tips and hints to fight their own battle in the future.
This post is for Connie, and for Karla, and for Jill, and for Robin, and for Julianne, and for the “other” Niki Turner over in England, and for Susan, and Susanne, and for Damon, and for all those who find themselves in the ring facing down their own personal opponents. We’re in this thing together, and we’re going to put up a fight to remember! All for one, and one for all…