Last night Gerhardt and I watched the movie, CREED, the last in a long line of ROCKY movies. In the final scene I alternately hid my eyes, shouted instructions to our hero in the ring, and punched the air. All this from a woman who is not a fan of boxing.
But I love boxing movies. Why is that? As the ending credits rolled I had to ask myself, "What is this about this movie genre that appeals to you?"
It didn't take me long to realize that it's not what's happening in the ring that is what appeals to me, it's the fight the hero wages to get there. Without all that training, without overcoming difficult circumstances there is no final battle in the ring, no big pay-off. These stories aren't just fictional accounts of men getting ready to go beat each other up - they are metaphors for life.
We all have times when we have to step in the ring and fight the fight of our life. That fight might be against depression or addiction. That fight might be to get through a divorce with our self-image and what's left of our family in tact. That fight might be to help a child who is struggling in school, facing bullies or fighting an addiction of his or her own. That fight might be against a disease or to carry a baby to full term.
Whatever the fight is, I think we need to prepare for it just as a boxer trains for a match. You see the boxer running, hitting punching bags, doing push-ups - working hard to get in shape, sweating and straining to make that dream come true. I think sometimes we need to get in shape as well.
As many of you know, my husband and I have had our share of battles over the years - financial struggles, dealing with the loss of a child, dealing with disease. How on earth to train for things like that?
I realized as I was battling cancer that I had to work to stay physically strong. "You must walk a mile every day," my doctor told me. "No matter what, rain or shine." With the exception of those few times when, a couple days after chemo I was so wiped out simply folding a blanket exhausted me, I did just that. I remember how I couldn't even walk up a few stairs without having to stop and catch my breath. The smallest hill felt like a mountain. But I kept walking, determined to follow the doctor's instructions. And for the most part, the pay-off was a good one. I managed to stay strong.
Staying strong emotionally was even more hard than staying strong physically. Prayer and my Bible were the tools that helped me keep my emotional muscles strong. And the support of friends. I'm convinced that when you are facing the battle of your life, you need to make sure you have someone in your corner. I will be forever grateful to my friends who came to see me in the hospital, who would come out to the house and bring food, to my critique group who hired a gardener to whip my garden into shape, to my agent and publisher, who sent gifts and good wishes. To my husband, who walked every step of the way with me. Friends and readers and business associates sent gifts and flowers - to the point that I began to worry I was going to fall prey to Munchausen syndrome. Thank you to all of you.
When our oldest daughter died - that was an even bigger fight. This was one battle that, even though I knew I had so many people in my corner, I had to wage alone. Only the hope of heaven carried me through. Sadness still often tries to take me down. I suspect this will be a lifelong battle.
Hopefully, we all have people rooting for us, people who are willing to help us train, to listen to our troubles, to encourage us. But in the end, we all step into the ring alone. It's there in the ring where our strength and faith are tested. It's there where we must choose whether to stay down when we're knocked down or to get back up and come up swinging.
If you're in the ring right now, I encourage you to not give up. There are people watching as you fight your battle, some are rooting for you, some may be hoping you fail. Either way, how you fight your fight people will be influenced. Hang in there. Don't let the bad things take you down. Get up. Keep swinging. The theme from ROCKY is playing. You can do it!