Do you wrestle with things? I mean, I think everyday we wrestle with thoughts, decisions and the million options that are available to us. It can be the simple wrestling match in our mind about whether to eat that bag of chocolate covered almonds, just have a couple or don’t have any at all (I may or may not have just allowed you to enter into my own personal wrestling match). Maybe you wrestle with how to lead a certain team member, how to communicate through your message this weekend or how to ignore the pile of chores at home and choose to spend the evening connecting with your spouse at the end of a long week.
Sometimes the wrestling matches we find ourselves in last longer than our stamina can withstand. We find ourselves exhausted from the “fight” and begging to tap-out. Anyone, or is it just me?
- to engage in wrestling
- to contend; as in a struggle for mastery, grapple
- to force by or as if by wrestling
- a struggle
If you have air flowing in and out of your lungs, you have days, weeks or seasons that you wrestle. We wrestle with the world and the pain we see, we wrestle with work, we wrestle with rest, we wrestle with ourselves and we wrestle with the crowd of people whom our lives bump up against as we weave through this human experience.
[Tweet “Wrestling isn’t bad thing, it’s just a thing-thing.”] In leadership and in life, wrestling is a natural part of what we navigate. That said, there is a healthy way to wrestle that will enable you to achieve a “win” and there is an unhealthy or illegal way to wrestle that will render you disqualified from the match or tapping-out to a loss. As I’ve wrestled my own matches, here are some observations I’ve made about the “wrestle”.
A Wrestling Match Requires Training. Every wrestler will tell you, just like with any sport, you must train; listen to the coach, lift the weights, practice the moves, keep your head clear and maintain your body weight…. every day. It’s not enough to want to wrestle, you have to prepare to wrestle. In leadership, this means we need to:
- Continually learn, allow people/mentors to coach and pour into us (leaders are learners)
- Put into practice the things we’re learning. We can’t just be a card catalog (look that up if you were born before 1980) of information, we have to put into practice what we’re learning.
- Don’t listen to the internal narratives that might be distracting you, keep your head and your heart clear and aligned with Jesus. Sometimes we’re our own worst enemy. Spend the time you need alone with God, ask Him to reveal truth. Ask others if you’re on the right track or if you’re upside-down.
- Make sure the amount of energy flowing out is less than or at least equal to, the amount of fuel flowing in. In other words, if you’re only pouring out energy into ministry, leadership, tasks and every little detail and you’re not taking time to rest and re-fuel, you’re going to get “pinned” to the mat and lose the match. Ministry requires you to be wise… with your time, your energy and yes, even your body. Rest well, eat well, play well and you’ll lead well.
- [Tweet “Recognize that sometimes, wrestling matches reveal our weaknesses.”] Sometimes in the midst of a wrestling match we realize the weaknesses in our leadership, our personal growth or maybe our emotional intelligence. Count this as a blessing and get back to the “gym” and work the muscle group that needs to be strengthened. Admit your weakness, a humble leader is a leader to be respected. Psalm 149:4 says, “For the Lord delights in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.” A weakness isn’t a dis-qualifier, it is simply a weakness. Weak muscles can be grown with training. Do the work.
- Some wrestling matches are meant to solidify truth. Jacob wrestled with “a man” in Genesis 32:22-32, he didn’t run from the wrestling match or try to tap-out. He faced the match and jumped in head-first, ready to meet the challenge. He was tenacious, strong and engaged until the “man” asked to tap-out (verse 26), but Jacob wouldn’t let him go until he blessed him, named him victor. At the end, Jacob is renamed, no longer identified as a “deceiver”, but now identified as “God fights” or God-Wrestler (MSG Bible). [Tweet “When we wrestle with Truth, He will always leave us marked with Truth.”] Jacob walked with a limb from that day forward, maybe as a reminder that he was not who he was in the past and that he had a new name and a new purpose.
Leadership and life will include some wrestling matches, but leadership and life are not one big wrestling match. I have stepped out onto wrestling mats that I was not prepared to step onto and I’ve come out exhausted, broken and feeling disqualified. I have also been called onto the mat and challenged to wrestle as one trained, equipped and prepared to face the match. I’m thankful for the matches with God… he refines me, gives me clarity about my weaknesses and my strengths. The mark these matches leave on me are more like the marks of victory, rather than the marks of defeat… I’m better because of them.