It was the day after Christmas when I saw two lines on a test for the first time. Unexpected, but certainly exciting and welcomed by both of us. About four weeks later, I could read between the lines of my doctor’s assessment of our first ultrasound and knew there was greater concern over the pregnancy than she wanted to verbally express. One week after that, we were sitting together in Room #2 when we learned I had a miscarriage.
And the week that followed that gradually became one of the darkest weeks of my life.
I seem to experience emotions on a delay. This made for an interesting week because as my body recovered from the procedure I had, all the physical pain and discomfort, and all the emotions I hadn’t really felt yet caught up to me at once…the day after the worst night of sleep I had in a while. It was a perfect storm of exhaustion, grief, hormonal imbalance, and emotions I don’t even have names for.
As we were eating dinner that night, Tom’s concern could not be hidden. I was simply not present in any way, but was trying really hard to keep myself out of the darkness looming within me. So I brought up our plans for Youth Group for the following morning because you know, the show must go on. I was supposed to teach and suggested we come home afterwards to watch service online together. Tom just looked at me, kind of in disbelief now that I think about it, and said, “What if I just teach tomorrow and you stay home? You should probably rest.” I knew he was right, but handing over my responsibilities will always feel wrong to me no matter what’s going on in my life, so I said no.
He got up, knelt down in front of my chair, made me look at him, and said in a compassionate, but firm, way, “Alyssa, take the gloves off. I am teaching tomorrow. You need to stay home and stop fighting rest. You don’t always have to go down swinging.”
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” - 2 Timothy 4:7-8
I think it’s fair of me to say that we all want to be able to say these words of Paul’s at the end of our lives. When I’m moments from my last breath, I want to know with confidence that I gave this life my all for the Lord, and I want to know the legacy I’m leaving behind is nothing but Christ.
I think it’s also fair of me to say that what you and I picture when we hear “fight the good fight” and “finish the race” is two people throwing punches in the ring, and two legs running through a finish line like death is breathing down their neck. And that’s understandable, that’s usually the only part we see in the lives of others.
See to me, fighting the good fight always meant the gloves never come off. But if you were to ask a professional fighter how you fight the good fight, you’d hear a whole lot of things that actually require the gloves to come off.
After doing a little research about how to train for a boxing match or a marathon (I had to research because God knows I’ll never know either of these things first-hand), here’s what I found:
Training to box includes buying the right equipment (gloves off), running (gloves off), strength and conditioning training (gloves on and off), dietary changes (gloves off) and mental preparedness (gloves off). If you check out Bayside Boxing, REST is the #1 tip. If you do a little more searching you’ll find that rest and recovery is a vital part of the process for keeping their body healthy, too.
Fighters don’t win fights by wearing their gloves all the time. In fact, they are more likely to win by taking the gloves off when they need to for training and rest.
And this isn’t just true about boxing. Training for a marathon is pretty similar in that throwing your sneakers on and running forever isn’t how you train. There’s a lot of rest involved in training effectively for long distance running. Again, I say this based on research because the only marathons I’m into involve my favorite TV series.
Rest is instrumental to fighting a good fight and finishing a race, both literally and figuratively.
Even when it comes to how that concept metaphorically applies to the stories in the Bible, we often end up focused almost entirely on the outcomes of lives and circumstances rather than all that led up to it. We see the winner standing in the middle of the ring, not the guy with his gloves off training for weeks or months beforehand.
We remember the conquest of Joshua, but forget the part in Joshua 7 where they lost a big battle and he spent all day on his face yelling up to God.
We remember that Job stayed faithful to the Lord despite the torment his life became, but forget the 20+ chapters in the middle where he resents his existence in the process.
We know Jeremiah 29:11 like the back of our hand, but overlook that God was in the midst of telling His people they’d experience bondage and struggle for decades in the process.
We are familiar with the miracles Jesus performed, but skim over all the times we read that he removed Himself from the busyness to rest and pray.
We want to fight the good fight, and finish the race, but we cannot do that if we skip over the preparation process in its entirety. We cannot cling to verses like this in II Timothy and breeze over Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me all those who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest…”
Sometimes what God is preparing us for requires intense, active preparation. Sometimes it requires a period of rest for our mind and body. Often times, it requires a combination of both. Every time, what we need to be doing and when is made clear to us by the Holy Spirit if we would just listen.
And I guess I’m saying all of this to say… I took the gloves off. Tom taught Youth Group that Sunday morning. I stayed home and snuggled with the puppy on the couch. I rested. If I hadn’t, my body wouldn’t have been ready for the week ahead. Exhaustion and discomfort would be the name of the game all week as I went down swinging, unprepared to be what I needed to be for my students, my husband, my coworkers, my church and myself.
If you want to fight the good fight, you have to train like a fighter. And the more time you spend with the Trainer, the more you’ll realize how often we’re called to take the gloves off in the process.