2014-07-09 - Bruised and Battered
Lately when I get up to start my day my mind feels fairly ready to be renewed for a fresh start (Psalm 51:10: " and renew a steadfast spirit within me "), yet my body is a whole other story. There are several physical struggles that I have been dealing with; some for awhile and some more recently and they can often skew my perspective regarding myself and other situations should I not take careful thought of it regularly. Very often I can work through it, however, some days it is an overwhelming challenge and I don't do so well. The key is remembering that we are all struggling with something. And that doesn't make any individual situation more or less important, just different. But not so different that no one has a clue what it's like.
When I was watching a football game last night, I was reminded of how we can all face difficult situations. I enjoy a good game, now and again. I remember watching games with my Dad, when I was a kid living in PA. It was a lot of fun, and I learned the value of a good snack, while watching a game. And much of the time as an adult, I still find it better to watch a game in the company of a good crowd, which is defined as people who really enjoy the spirit of the game - and are not just arguing. But being rather vocal is expected, and when I watch these games, it will happen, yet less often when I am watching alone. Last night, I found this very hard-fought game extremely intriguing, and found myself flipping back to it in the second half, although my company for the game had gone to bed by then. The next morning, I was telling my family about a few plays from the game last night, and then some time later, I found myself pondering about why in particular, this game seemed exciting, even with no one else watching it with me.
Then it came to me: I found some comfort in the struggle they were facing in that game. Not in the fact they were struggling, but in the way they were dealing with their struggle. They were bruised and battered, to be sure. One player got a concussion during the game, another pulled a muscle in the upper part of his leg, and neither player could return to the game. These guys were pounding each other, and were not allowing any easy scores to take place. The quarterback came into the game with his shoe massively taped-up, due to recently renewing an old injury with a foot bone, and was then whacked in the nose early in the game - and although they claimed it wasn't broken, it clearly had a new shape that implied they were in denial. And when it looked like no one would even score again, at the end, a player flew through the air and knocked the ball loose and gave the battered quarterback one more opportunity to bring his bruised team into a place of victory (Psalm 60:12 " with God, we will gain the victory "). The other team was relentless in stopping forward progress, and so much so, that the next move was to throw the quarterback down on the ground, to make a statement. As the defensive man grabbed for the ball, then being unsuccessful, with that yank of the jersey of the quarterback, he made his last effort. Next, the quarterback twisted and pulled in the other direction, put the ball in his other hand, dragged himself and his aching foot away about four or five steps toward the sideline, and carefully projected the ball out of bounds. One or two plays later, his team scored, and after a series of defensive plays, where the opponent took its last shot at winning the game was over. Wow!!! That's what I thought to myself, at the end of that game - and here's why.
Those groups of guys, both sides of the line of scrimmage, were battling just like we do every day (Psalm 24:8; " the Lord is mighty in battle"). Sure it was more dramatic, and frankly, sometimes we need to be reminded in a dramatic way. When the odds kept piling up against these men, they picked themselves up, dusted themselves off (in some cases pulled the grass out of their helmets) and went on to the next play, believing that this would be the next chance to overcome all they had just encountered. Just as they fought, we are more than conquerors through our Lord Jesus (Romans 8:37) and when our bodies keep telling us it's just not possible to go on, we need to listen to that still small voice of the spirit of God, that wants us to realize this pain is just temporary (Isa 40:31 "I will renew their strength ") and his love is everlasting (Jeremiah 31:3).
We are more than conquerers, whether it's physical challenges, grieving the loss of a loved one or a friend, addictions we just can't seem to shake - or looking at that treadmill after going on for weeks in the exercise plateau and feeling discouraged with the progress. We can be just like the quarterback who has the ball in his hand, twists and turns, makes an adjustment and takes that opportunity right out of the hands of all that is coming up against us. Because whether we're training for a sport, training for a job, training to be a writer or a missionary, dealing with a difficult loss, living with chronic pain or just trying to do simple tasks following a surgery, we all have one thing in common. We are part of a team. We were adopted into the family of God (Ephesians 1:4, says " for he chose us in him before the creation of the world, to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love, he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ "). And while there will be struggles and challenges, we, like the members of a football team, can lean on each other and pick each other up - to get us across that goal line.
All scripture references are from the New International Version (NIV) unless otherwise noted.