Round Fifteen: The Championship
Yo, Jesus …
Hey, welcome to Mickey’s Gym! C’mon in here and sitcher self down. You comfort’ble?
See that life-sized pitcher hangin’ up there? That’s YOU, isn’t it?! Man, do you know how many times I wished you’d just step down into this here ring and say Yo, Rocky. I’m Real. Ya know, things ain’t been so good around here lately.
Let me shake your hand. Naw, shucks, c’mon here! Gimme a big bear hug.
Hey, you pretty buff, heh heh. Let me show you some of my moves. Wanna see what’chu t’ink.
This here’s my fierce upper cut to the left. And the rhythm on the punching bag right here…music to your ears, huh? And this one, I been workin’ on this one – that there’s some pretty fancy footwork, don’cha think? But man, I tell you the truth. It makes me tired.
Mickey keeps jawin’ at me, another round, kid! And Paulie. Jesus, Paulie ain’t nice some days. I’d like to smack him but then I tell m’self, that ain’t you. That’s why I like lookin’ up at that pitcher of you, Heavyweight Champion of da World, man! That’s who I wanna be like. Y’know what’s swell? I heard about’ ju. Now I seen you!
Say ‘gin? Meet you here tomorrow so you can show me some of your moves? You got it. Now don’chu go hiding in that pitcher up there again, ya hear?
Livingly writing through fifteen rounds has been like hearing Rocky’s deep bass humming the tune to Tennessee Ernie Ford’s Fifteen Tons (and whaddaya get?). With the Lord, deeper, I think. Without Him, overwhelmed.
In my opinion, if ever there was a banner year…this wasn’t it. When I wrote the first Reflections of an Election Heart post nearly a year ago, you nor I could have fathomed what would unfold month by month in our nation.
Both the ugliness and the beauty of the human heart has shown its colors of every dark and brilliant hue. The land of our country and of our lives has been being purged by fire and flood, sorrow and death. The devouring seems insatiable.
Some days it’s felt like fifteen tons sitting on my heart. The only prescription I’ve found for what ails is choosing to actively believe that daily the Lord carries my burden with me. He shoulders the heavy weight, giving enabling grace so I may take the next step with what is mine to carry.
Does it matter what the next step looks like? I think it does.
If it’s toward focusing my attention on Mickey’s relentless jawin’ or Paulie’s oral diarrhea driven by internal anxiety, then I’m setting myself up to lose the round. If, instead, it’s daily setting my face like a flint in the direction the Heavyweight Champion of the World is heading, then I am on firm footing where none of these things have the power to move me off of my trust in Him.1
Though that sounds religiously dandy, it doesn’t just happen. You want to know where He is heading? Then let Him show you some of His moves. They begin in His heart, and this I can guarantee: they don’t appear in our hearts by osmosis. Unless and until we the people get a clue instead of an opinion every 3 minutes, the ugly and the beautiful will continue to battle it out.
In fact, Jesus told us in advance that the Kingdom of heaven could be compared to a farmer who planted good seed in his field, but was infiltrated by an enemy who sowed weeds among the wheat. When asked by the farmer’s workers if they should pull up the weeds, he told them it was too risky. The wheat has far too much value to risk damaging it by pulling up weeds intertwined in the wheat. As a result, he told them to let the weeds and the wheat grow up together until harvest time. The harvesters will then hear and do as he instructs. 2
I confess that I’ve wanted to pull out the weed-whacker and go to town these past eleven months. In the Lord’s mercy (for me and others!) He gently defuses me before I can get too throttled up – most times. And He uses that very parable to do the defusing, returning me to eyes of love with a face like flint – set toward Him. Then I can hear and follow His lead, for my life, again. Today and tomorrow. And the day after that. Step by daily step.
In the final count of these fifteen rounds, let me parade the placard of what we tell others in our counseling office (that we preach to ourselves as often as needed which, trust me, is often):
You cannot change anyone else.
You can only change (and be willing to be changed) yourself.
Work on you.
Though Rocky had a trainer in Mickey, a spouse in Adrian, a frenemy in Paulie; those who looked up to him and those who looked down on him…ultimately, he was accountable for himself to God, and then to that which God imparted and burned within him to be and do in his lifetime. He chose to believe his one life had worth.
All of life’s problems and woes will not be solved by us before the Lord returns. We can help, but in the end …
~ Gracefully Free
Holy Postscript: I had just finished this post when I went to the internet to capture the photo of Rocky kneeling in prayer. I typed in Google search and an article on CBN.com came up entitled Sylvester Stallone on Faith, Integrity, and Rocky Balboa. It caught my attention so I clicked on it. Following is the opening paragraph:
From the very first shot of Rocky, a painting of Jesus overlooks the determined but worn boxer. He’s sparring in a converted church-turned-gym and the viewer notes that these smartly placed spiritual references demonstrate the Hand of Providence throughout his life. Writer, Director and Actor Sylvester Stallone says, “The character of Rocky was built on the idea that he was chosen to do something. That’s why the first image in Rocky is the picture of Christ.”
I had NO remembrance as I wrote the opening lines of this post of a painting of Jesus hanging over the boxing ring. Holy Spirit certainly remembered. How I love Him. Now to go back and watch the opening scene again!
1 Acts 20:24
2 Matthew 13:24-30