• Two people who thought military couples needed more...

She is in my Corner

I just finished watching "Warrior." My assistant had been recommending the movie for quite some time now, and even though my heart wasn't into watching a movie this morning, he plugged the computer into the TV and hit play, so I resigned myself to it. The Australian SF Chaplain (Kevin) and another soldier stopped by at different times and all stayed to watch it. In the end, I thanked Mike for playing a movie that made me want to sob like a baby. It's in my Top 10 list now.

 I don't really know where to begin, so as usual, I guess I will just begin rambling.

I have never really understood watching MMA or boxing. I know people who get up in the middle of the night during a deployment to watch it, they are so dedicated. Groups have parties and rent pay-per-view. This is been going on for years, centuries even. We seem to be entertained by watching these gladiatorial battles play out on the mat, in the ring or octagon, on the field. I used to think it was because we are such a violent society. Now I just think we are simply acknowledging the nature of life. "Everyone I know is in the fight of their life." - Ben Harper

We're fighting the demons and mistakes of our past, the family member that took our innocence with anger or lust, the boss who takes our dignity and pride, the aggressive or passive spouse who doesn't fully know how to love us yet, the voice inside our head that tells us we're not (pick one: smart, pretty, handsome, sexy, desirable, lovable, talkative, open, honest, vulnerable, quiet, reserved, outspoken, funny, responsible, attentive, etc.) enough. Oftentimes that voice sounds similar to someone we regret letting in that close into our world. Someone that came in, took what they wanted and left. Someone who didn't even really have to say anything to tell us that we aren't worth anything. I imagine the fighter with his hands around his head, fetal on the mat, and his opponent is battering him in a "ground and pound." I've been there. People I have counseled through suicidal thoughts look just that way. Dejected, on the floor, looking down despondent.

And sometimes we have been that person, that tyrannical, malevolent person in another's life, just like the alcoholic father that spends the entire movie trying to undo the hurt he caused and seeking forgiveness, knowing the one person he cannot forgive is himself, because his shame lies and says he doesn't deserve it. A careless word or deed, caught only too late, and we watch the pain in the one we were supposed to protect. The warm wash of guilt, following the ice-cold stab of our selfishness. And like falling backwards in a chair, we realize only too late, that we cannot undo the motion set forward. Or maybe it's just the absent withdrawal that spoke volumes. "Silence is the loudest parting word, you never say." - Ben Harper

It's a fight. Rocky Balboa knew that when talking to his son:

"You ain't gonna believe this, but you used to fit right here. I'd hold you up to say to your mother, "This kid's gonna be the best kid in the world. This kid's gonna be somebody better than anybody I ever knew." And you grew up good and wonderful. It was great just watching you, every day was like a privilege. Then the time come for you to be your own man and take on the world, and you did. But somewhere along the line, you changed. You stopped being you. You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you you're no good. And when things got hard, you started looking for something to blame, like a big shadow. Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done! Now if you know what you're worth then go out and get what you're worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain't where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain't you! You're better than that! I'm always gonna love you no matter what. No matter what happens. You're my son and you're my blood. You're the best thing in my life. But until you start believing in yourself, ya ain't gonna have a life." 

I look back at the last 15 years of my life and realize I there are maybe a handful of choices that I would have made at the outset. Pretty much the only one, honestly, is asking the Love of my Life, the Bride of my Youth, to walk this road with me. After that, it seems we climbed in a ship without sails or a rudder, let God push us away from the shore and pray against the massive waves that assailed us. There was so little that I could have foreseen or predicted. I have felt so out of control, so much. But the one constant, was that bride.

In the movie, one of the fighters is fighting for his family, literally. In order to meet their basic needs for survival, he throws himself back into a life he left. Life circumstances out of his control caused him to put his health and welfare on the line for something he knew he did well, but didn't want to have to do. I see soldiers everyday in that position.      
“The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.” - Douglas MacArthur

His wife sits beside the ring, and like Jim Braddock's wife ("Cinderella Man") seems to feel every punch, knowing full well that the man in the ring is sacrificing everything for her and their children. She knows he doesn't want to be in that position, and hurts for him, and respects his sacrifice immensely, knowing that it is love and dedication which has led him there, for his family is his courage. 

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. " - Theodore Roosevelt

Brene Brown could not have a more appropriate phrase to embody the risk and reward of real vulnerability: "daring greatly." A daredevil only has your rapt attention so long as there is an element of danger and a risk of loss. No one ever showed up to watch someone jump over a toy car.

In marriage, this fine art is perfected over decades. Not weeks, months or years. Decades. It is a push and pull and a survival through all manner of circumstances. Loss of dreams, jobs, homes, children, parents. It is that sacred two-some that hold hands and walks through the fire together. And at times they only have each other. And in some of those times they mistake one another for the opposition, and begin fighting against one another when they should be back-to-back facing outward, defending one another from the onslaught of things beyond their control.

And the best fighting they can do is when they are on their knees together. When they actually can do nothing to change the circumstances of the other, who is alone, afraid, lost, confused, hurt, angry, depressed or hopeless. And they beg God to step in, and they intercede on their behalf, because they are of one mind and heart, they feel every punch from the world, and they cannot punch back.

Several people have asked me for the text of a poem that I recite frequently. It is one that my father gave to me, one that has charted the course for my life, and probably the main reason that my blog is titled, "Perseverance" and Vince Lombardi's words close my yahoo email: "You carry on no matter what the obstacles. You simply refuse to give up, and when the going gets tough, you get tougher, and you win."

The poem is called "The Test" by Carlyle Straus:

"The test of a man is the fight he makes,
The grit that he daily shows;
The way he stands on his feet and takes
Fate's numerous bumps and blows.
A coward can smile when there's naught to fear,
When nothing his progress bars;
But it takes a man to stand up and cheer
While some other fellow stars.

It isn't the victory, after all
But the fight that a brother makes;
The man who, driven against the wall,
Still stands up erect and takes
The blows of fate with his head held high;
Bleeding, and bruised, and pale,
Is the man who'll win in the by and by,
For he isn't afraid to fail

It' the bumps you get, and the jolts you get,
And the shocks that your courage stands,
The hours of sorrow and vain regret,
The prize that escapes your hands,
That test your mettle and prove your worth;
It isn't the blows you deal,
But the blows you take on the good old earth,
That show if your stuff is real."

I don't always win. I don't always say the exact right thing or behave in the best way. Sometimes my best intentions fall very short, and I would rather run or hide, and not try again. Sometimes I want to throw in the towel, because it all seems to hard.

"Many times I get neurotic, paranoid and jealous. Very Impatient. Ah ha ha, and I've heard some say I'm a little bit overzealous. And I never have claimed to hide my feelings well. People take them for granted and they put them sale, and you say it's your pet peeve that I wear my heart on my sleeve, it ain't nothing new, what can I do, to prove to you, that's me." - James Corbin (he probably doesn't remember writing this song)

But, I am trying. Trying to get back up when I am the one who knocked me down. trying to find a carpet that won't get pulled out from underneath me. Standing up, when it feels like so many around the ring are telling me to stay down. Why? Because there is so much worth fighting for, and I won't let the Enemy who comes to steal, kill and destroy run amok in my life. "For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" - Paul, Ephesians 6:12.

Brennan Manning ("Ragamuffin Gospel") helped me be okay with being a mess. Jesus helped me strive to not remain that way. I cannot control what happens to me, but I can control how I react (Victor Frankl "Man's Search for Meaning"). And there are many people in my corner (and yours) who believe in me (and you). For me, all I have see is my wife's face when I look out into the crowd, into my corner, and I know I can conquer the world. 

"Among the men and women, the multitude,
I perceive one picking me out by secret and divine signs,
Acknowledging none else - not parent, wife, husband, brother, child
any nearer than I am;
Some are baffled - but that one is not - that ones knows me.

Ah, lover and perfect equal!
I meant that you should discover me so, by faint indiscretions;
And I, when I meet you, mean to discover you by the like in you." - Walt Whitman