Wrestling Sin and Grace: What k-8 Wrestling Matches Taught Me

Are you a proponent of grace? Or do you believe if we embrace grace too much, it’s like we are giving ourselves an excuse to sin? Ever wonder how a believer lives as both sinner and saint? I have and typically, when I fall short of goodness, guilt and shame takes over and I feel unworthy to offer anyone, especially God, ANYTHING. I take myself out of communication and out of the “race” of faith (ref in Heb 12:1)

My niece (8) and nephew (5) just entered the competitive world of wrestling and I had the privilege of attending their very 1st tournament. Like a good aunt, I made sure I took video, photos, waved, cheered and cried for them. My emotions paled in comparison to their nerves, pressure and the rollercoaster of winning and losing.

As GREAT as it was as an aunt to be there with them for the very special day, my favorite part was watching my baby brother (who happens to be 28) coaching his kids on the sidelines. Something about it sparked my heart to fullness. Maybe it was the sense of pride and excitement he shared for his kids. Maybe it was the thought that he’s such a good dad. Or, maybe, it was the love of the paternal relationship in action. Those kids trusted their dad completely. I found it comedic that they didn’t seem to be making decisions about their moves on their own, AT ALL! Instead, they looked for their dad’s face in between the other kid’s armpits and raised their heads from the mat to make sure they were hearing him correctly. Even in the heat of action, they were dependent on his experience and guidance & seemed lost without it.   When things went wrong, they didn’t hesitate to walk off the mat and go to mom and dad for comfort. Their undoubting trust in their parents exemplified the relationship I believe God the Father wants with us: complete and utter faith that dad has your back.

Dad comforts on the sidelines


But after contemplating how this is applicable to our spiritual life, I heard Holy Spirit speak about one more aspect to it all:   “He told them to get back on the mat.”

My sister in law was on the sidelines when my little nephew lost a round. Intense tears streamed down his face.  I could hardly stand to see him so upset! I wanted to comfort and shout that loosing was “outrageous! You were robbed!” ANYTHING…to make the tears stop. But as my nephew ran to his parents for those exacts responses, they did something I may not have had the wisdom to do: they hugged him, gave him a short word of encouragement and had him get back in the match.   My sister in law looked at me as her little 5 year old walked off, his chest still convulsing from the involuntary waves of sobbing and said, “It just kills me to see him like this! But I know it’s for his own good to experience it and get back in there.”

WHOA. Whether it was intuition or practice, she was right. What may seem cruel was actually the best thing for that little boy. Protecting him completely from life’s loses and trials would actually, do him NO GOOD.  Instead, it was important for him to continue down the path of resistance…all the while knowing mom and dad were there to support him, cheer him on and coach him for next time. Win or lose… the lesson was the most valuable part of kid’s day.

Often, we stray from the safe path God has for us. We get hurt when we wander away from His will for us. We get ourselves in trouble or, unpredictable life side-swipes us and wrestles us to the mat, puts on the hurt on us and makes us tap out.

It’s in those times, we look around (and usually UP) and cry out for comfort and for the pain to stop. Like a good dad, God allows us to step out of the ring for his comfort, guidance and reassurance. And in those moments, it’s nice to be off the wrestling mat, away from our opponents and in his arms. It’s what we need most in those moments. But, we can’t stay there. In His wisdom, the loving Father will wipe away our tears, give us a pointer or two and turn our shoulders back towards the ring and say, “The match isn’t done, Son. Get back in there and keep going.”

I was reminded that in life, we will get taken down and taken out . Sometimes, it happens TO us. Most of the time, we stumble in sin.   No matter though, it’s important to know that GRACE ABOUNDS so that we CAN get back in the race.

GRACE is the Father, on the side lines, wiping away the tears and giving us pointers and saying, “GET BACK IN THE RING.” Grace isn’t our excuse or just a get-out-of-jail-free card. Rather, grace is the Father allowing us to stay in the race (ring, match, battle for life or whatever you want to call it!”

Grace is behind teaching, “…let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.…” (Hebrews 12:1-2) With fresh eyes, I read this and see an emphasis on running the race.

I am no stranger to the struggle Paul speaks of when he says, “…I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” (Rom 7:18-19) But I have realized that Sin’s intention is to keep us off the mat, out of the race and cancel the fight altogether. Sin’s goal is to have us take ourselves out of the race because SIN, embodied in the Enemy, knows that GRACE will ensure that we WIN THE FIGHT. If the enemy can convince us we don’t have a chance and are not good enough, worthy enough or bold enough to fight, he wins by default. And although the enemy may be RIGHT about our shortcomings, he’s WRONG about our ability to fight. Jesus Christ promised we WILL overcome. Not because of what we do, but because of what He DID.   He secured the victory on the cross and promised the win… BUT… you HAVE to get back in the circle. You have to keep wrestling. You HAVE to participate.  If we allow the father of Lies to convince us to quit, we will miss what God has for us AND what we have in us to bless the people around us.

Does being a proponent of grace mean we excuse ourselves blindly from our shortcomings? No. But neither do we give power of the Accuser to bind us again. The goal, my friends, is to set aside the weight of sin (and it’s guilt and shame that comes with it). It is at the foot of the cross under Grace’s covering and KEEP MOVING towards God! Like my niece and nephew with their dad, we are intended to have un-daunting trust in God’s ability to say, “You are forgiven…now get back on the mat.”  IMG_3552

Trust that Grace has your back. Trust that He cares that much and nothing surprises Him. Trust that he will continue a good work in you and bring you to a place of completion. Just TRUST….and get back in there!