(please forgive the length. It takes a while to set the context, and this isn’t twitter. So, I’ve done minimal editing.)
It’s not a secret that athletes and musicians have great affinity for each other. A lot of musicians aspire to the athletic prowess that alluded them in high school, while many an athlete wishes he could strum a guitar or sing on stage. This last week, I embarked on a tour to support Third Day’s new album, Miracle, as my son prepared for the Georgia state wrestling qualifiers. (There’s four different tournaments to qualify throughout the state, then the top 4 placers from each tournament compete in the state championship)
Wrestling is an interesting sport because you have to choose in which division you will wrestle. In high school, the divisions are pretty close in weight, about 4 lb increments. However, in middle school, the divisions are often 10-15 lb increments. So, the prevailing wisdom is that if you’re in between divisions, it’s more advantageous to lose a few lbs than to give weight to your opponent. I’m not advocating “cutting weight.” My son ranges in weight between 138-145 lbs. He’s wrestled this year at both 140, 150, and even 165 lbs because not all tournaments have a 150. At the start of the week, he weighed 142. So, we decided with his coach that he’d compete in the 140 lb division, which my son easily weighed after a standard workout.
Through the wonders of technology, I was able to watch his matches live on Facetime. Cole placed second in the Qualifier, losing a tough match to a kid we affectionately refer to as his nemesis. Cole has beaten the kid before, but there is no denying the kid is a more experienced, better wrestler. I was disappointed that my son didn’t beat his challenger, but he pinned everyone else and still took 2nd, good enough to qualify for the state meet this weekend.
When I returned home from the run of shows on Monday, I looked at the brackets for the upcoming tournament. He has a tough path to win state. He has to beat two really tough opponents including a rematch with his nemesis. The odds are not in his favor. (Thanks Hunger Games) My wife was with me, and we looked at the 150 lb bracket. Cole had already beaten every kid in the bracket this year, and could have probably run away with it. I was feeling pretty bad, like we made the wrong decision. Cole would have had a much easier time winning state at the higher weight category.
With the logistics of a 6 kid family and all their various activities, I didn’t get to see Cole till after his wrestling practice. In the car, I broached the subject with him. “Cole, I looked at the brackets, and it looks like 150 lbs. would have been a lot easier bracket for you. You’d probably have a better chance of winning state.”
Cole replied, “Well, won’t it mean more if I win out this tougher bracket?” What a great response, but he wasn’t done!
I answered, “I mean no one will know. You get to either say you’re a state champ or not. It won’t really matter to people what weight category it is.”
Cole paused for a second, then said, “Well, it’ll matter more to me.”
What a great sign of a true competitor. Cole is more concerned with facing a tough personal challenge than winning an award. I was thinking about the prize and the bragging rights, how other people would perceive him, how other people would perceive me. (Yes, I’ll admit it!) There is just something so right about his perspective. They don’t make movies about the dominant competitors with every advantage who beat up on weaker opponents. They make movies about the underdogs that rise to the challenge.
As I’ve thought about this conversation over the last couple of days, I keep finding myself being really inspired by my son’s perspective. When given the choice between something that gets the affirmation of others with little risk and something that is difficult and challenging with the risk of failure and ridicule, how many of us choose the more difficult path?
I won’t try to connect the dots for your life, but I see application in my faith, in my education, in my relationships, and certainly in making music with Third Day. Whether acknowledged or not, I want to walk in obedience to God and respond to His prompting, even if that takes me on a more challenging path.