When my children were very young, they delighted in wrestling with dad. I would lie on the floor to prepare for the battle, or sometimes I would already be lying there busy with another task, and they would dog pile me. Even my brave little daughter would dive into the fray. Once the pile was in place, my task was to find a way to grab onto each of them, and hold on as well as I could. Any way I could restrain them was fair game. I could lie on top of them (gently), wrap my arms or legs around them, grasp an ankle, wrist, or the waist of their blue jeans. Their task was to break free of my hold, and if they could do so, they would win!
More often than not, they worked together, combining their efforts in order to win their freedom. But once in a while, one of them (usually my oldest son, Sheridan) would foolishly try to play the game by himself – mano-a-mano. Such bold courage in a young heart! Out of the blue, he would attack. He never won. Ever.
But this is where I reveal my secret – a secret that I never told him, until today…
When Sheridan was thirteen years old, he made a solo attack. It was a brutal floor-war. It went on for a good while, and included much sweat, some scratches, and a few excellent carpet burns. We grunted and snorted, making “man sounds” as the battle raged. The effort seemed to be much more intense than it normally was. I was having to really put effort into not letting him get away, and the man sounds were not playful or pretend. They were real. At one point I thought to myself, “He’s really getting strong. He’s going to win this one. I can’t let my perfect record be marred in this way!” Eventually, Sheridan got tired and gave up. I laid back, relaxed, and thanked God in Heaven it was over, because I was exhausted. That was our last battle. I never dared to wrestle with him again.
There is something inside a dad that wants to keep alive that myth of invincibility that lives in the hearts of their children. There was a time when I believed my dad could do anything. Nothing was beyond him. I can remember how difficult it was to watch him age and lose that Superman status. Neither did I want to lose that with my own children, but I see my own frailties creeping into my aging body as the calendar pages flip from front to back. The myth is dying.
This is a game we all play, though perhaps not literally on the floor with our children. We play the game with society, and we play it with God. We are invincible. We are bold and brave. We want, with Thoreau, to “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life,” because we are able, self-sufficient, strong and mighty.
I get it. In the finest of “man-style” thinking, I understand this mentality. And we should be strong. We should be confident. Over and over we read in Scripture, “Be strong and courageous.” But this not in and of ourselves. Ephesians 6:10 states this as clearly as any place, “Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might.” The strength is not ours. The might is not ours.
This is a difficult lesson to learn, particularly for men. Our instinct is to not show weakness, to hide vulnerability, yet that is exactly what must happen. We must be broken before God, because in and of ourselves we can do nothing. We are doomed to fail at that.
James 4:10 tells us, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
It is not God’s will to press us down and keep us there. God’s concern is that we be strong while understanding where that strength comes from. This is precisely why Paul says, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2. Corinthians 12:10
Victoriously in Christ!