Wednesday, May 2, 2012

To Fight a Good Fight

After they'd demonstrated (for ninety minutes) their basic, combination, and self-defense moves; performed Kata routines; and sparred four rounds, their instructor sent them from the gymnasium to shed their equipment.

My boy had fought well but trailed the rest of the pack a bit, his arms wrapped around his midsection, and I said to Jim: "He's hurt." I wondered if Cade were badly bruised, if his rib were broken.

When the students returned, their instructor spoke to their sticktoitiveness. "Look around," he said. "Not everyone who started this chapter, has finished. But you've finished.

"Take off your Senior Brown Belts," he said. "Put them behind you. Don't ever wear them again. They represent the past."

Photo by Anjie Henley

Soon, each student had donned a Black Belt and taken a swig of juice. One by one, they shook their instructor's hand. I noticed: when he could, Cade continued to cross his arms in front of him. Another student wore a bloodied nose. Still others cried; whether from pain, exhaustion, or adrenaline crash, I don't know. To one student (who cried in little gasps for breath), the instructor said: "You've done well. Hold your head up high."

When I asked Cade, later, if he were hurt, he said: "Just my toe." He lifted his foot to reveal: he'd lost an entire layer of skin off the bottom of one of his big toes. And I guess I didn't know he holds his stomach when he hurts; I'd never really seen him hurt, before.

I tried to tell him how proud I was, and of course I teared up. "You're so pregnant," he laughed, not unkindly, and he draped his Senior Brown Belt around my neck.

For days, I've turned this response over in my head, also that of the girl who gasped for breath. I've wondered: what if--fresh from the fight--a person can't see it all?

I don't mean to make a (wo)man into God or (worse) God into a (wo)man. 

But what if we're fighting our way, all the time, to new levels? What if God, watching, whispers: Leave the past behind. You've gotten somewhere. Be who you are right now. Hold your head up high: not in pride, but in an absence of shame. Not everyone who started this chapter has finished. You've done well, and I'm proud of you.

Photo by Anjie Henley

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