Well, those of you who know us well, know that wrestling is a major part of our lives every Winter. All five of our sons wrestle, and our oldest son Brey has been wrestling for 9 years now. That makes me a wrestlers' mom for almost a decade. Those of you wrestling moms know the challenges we face. I always describe it to my friends as watching a stranger twist and pummel your very most prize possesion! There are lots of funny ways to talk about wrestling and boys, from the smell of their shoes to dealing with losing a match to a girl! But after yesterday, I have not been able to find anything funny about it, but have been struck by the sports comparisons to life itself. Thane and I have always explained the sport of wrestling as enabling a boy to learn how to rely on himself. It also has the potential to teach a boy about the challenges he will most certainly face as a man. As many times as I have explained this to others, I don't think I truly understood it myself until yesterday.
When Brey was born, I will never forget his dad holding him up on his second day of life and showing him to me. He said, "Becky, look at his muscles, he is the strongest baby in the world. Look at him flex those muscles!" As he grew, he was always smiling and happy, but had a will of steel. He, alone, trained us for the challenges of parenting toddlers, and the four that followed never compared to the trouble that this two year old caused. He has always held a special place for me. He has always had a tender heart, a compassionate spirit and a gentle nature. But lately, I am learning that he also has the heart of a man and guts of steel.
Brey is 14 now, and yesterday we took our five sons to a wrestling tournament in Lebanon, OR. They are an all day affair, as some of you know. This particular tournament hosted about 300 wrestlers and the competition was really tough. So Thane and I spent the day running between 2 gymnasiums, texting each other, while 5 boys run the circuit wrestling 3 matches a piece. The younger 4, suffered defeat by some very talented wrestlers. But they gave it their best, held their heads high and took what lessons for improvement they could. Then there was Brey's matches...
Brey weighs 178lbs and was bracketed with 2 other boys who weighed 208 and 218. Thane and I are always nervous for him. We watch the his competition and Thane offers helpful suggestions based on how the other boys wrestled. Brey sits quietly listening to his MP3 player or reading a book, sometimes both! He doesn't concern himself much with the competition, he doesn't get nervous or even seem remotely worried about his upcoming match. So when it came time for him to wrestle, he took off his MP3, warmed up and met his competition. The match was very intense. It went back and forth for 3 rounds with the score tied most of the match. At one point, Brey was tossed over the other wrestler only by one arm. He jumped right back up and took the boy down. Both of them were exhausted, and I am sure the heavier boy was quite surprised by Brey's ability to handle the weight difference. I watched from the side of the mat, while Thane coached him. I felt like my guts were being ripped out of me. It seemed as if my baby was fighting for his very life. Watching him struggle and fight, panting for breath and digging very deep inside for whatever he had left, brings me to tears even now. But there wasn't anything I could do for him. This was one of those times he had to rely only on himself. That was hard for me to let him do.
In the last 40 seconds or so of the last round, the other boy managed to get Brey into the "flying cowboy". For those unfamiliar with wrestling, this move ends with Brey basically in a headlock. The boy squeezed it hard and the boys together moved in a circle in the middle of the mat, as Brey fought to escape and the bigger boy squeezed harder. It seemed like it lasted forever. I screamed inside, "Brey, just give up!" I was desperate for his suffering to end. But Brey wouldn't give up. He flipped and flailed and tried everything he could think of to escape and the other boy just squeezed harder. Finally, the referee called a pin. Brey stood up slowly, his lips were purple, his eyes were bloodshot. He put his hand out to shake his opponents and then he fell over. I ran out onto the mat and sat him up helping him to breath. His dad and I had to help him off the mat to the sound of applause for a boy who had shown more strength and steel will than I'm sure many there had expected. As I sat with him in the stands, I fought back tears. "I am so proud of you", I said, and his dad echoed the same.
So what are the lessons from wrestling? It's just a sport, right? But I remain struck by the parallels of this match... to life. Many, in Brey's situation, would have been afraid. Many would have never gone out there to face an opponent so much bigger. Many would have made some effort only to be brought down out of sheer exhaustion. Many would have given up, when the situation seemed insurmountable. But Brey didn't. Life throws us many of the same challenges. Whether its a battle with an addiction, a disease, a failing marriage, depression...life is far from easy. But the character and sheer "guts" one posesses determines the fortitude with which we face such things.
Brey did take one thing out there on the mat with him. He took Christ. So too can we, take Christ with us to face all of life's "insurmountables". Even when it may seem as if we are fighting alone, we don't have to. We can fight with the strength of the Almighty One. The one who created us, the One who knows our battles better than we do. We can take Christ with us and fight, with all the guts, strength and fortitude we have...just like Brey did.