Sunday, October 14, 2007

Fighting the Inner Battle

Athletics is funny: The athletes who master the mental game arguably dominate the ones who are physically superior. "Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane" is a cliche that comes to mind. The battlefield of the mind arguably takes a toll on the soul or heart of a man and affects the way he interacts with the rest of society and the world at large. Battles won or lost and the interpretation thereof ultimately predict whether he positively or negatively interacts with that world.

Training alone is a dangerous game. Physical safety becomes an issue when heavy weights are involved. But psychological and emotional safety are arguably the bigger problem. When things appear to go wrong, there is no one to help interpret the situation except the voices in the individual's head at that moment in time. Usually the loudest voice wins. Being spiritually and emotionally grounded help at these times.

This is where I found myself yesterday. Yesterday could be viewed as a watershed moment. Upon reflection, it was the culmination of 3+ years of spiritual work plus 18 months of physical work. I started the training session snatching and finished it wrestling. Wrestling because I had multiple questions to answer and decisions to make based on those answers:

"Am I tired?"

"Am I weak?"

"Is it positioning?"

"Am I just slow today?"

"Do I attempt another rep?"

"Do I stay here at this weight or add more, even though I keep missing?"

"What is the problem here?"

"Do I really have what it takes to do this--Really?"

It was the last question that got me: The one filled with self-doubt. It's that question that John Eldredge, in his sure-to-be-classic, Wild at Heart, says every man has asked, and had answered either positively or negatively in the course of his life. And that question, and more specifically, the answer to that question, dictates how a man lives his life.

That question, "Do I have what it takes?" is really a form of this question:

"Am I strong enough to come through in a pinch--when it's needed most--when I'm needed most?"

If a man isn't grounded spiritually, he may not know the answer. That's what my 3+ years of spiritual work was: Learning and applying the answer to that question.

God says He created Man in His image. Strong, merciful, gracious, loving, just, creative, intelligent--to name but just a few. However, it is doubtful many of us ever heard that or were taught that when we were growing up (Isn't that right, Monkey-Boy?). Therefore, we don't know who we are and it stands to reason that we don't know what we are supposed to be doing--How else can we explain such mass under-achievement?

This is why athletics are so, so powerful. It gives a boy a chance to become a man, to prove his worth, to obtain an identity, to obtain an answer to the question...The field of competition then can be the training field for life. (It can also go horribly wrong...)

And it is upon this backdrop that I was on the platform yesterday missing snatch after snatch after snatch. The old me, the one that hadn't allowed Jesus (uh-oh--he said the "J-word") to heal the wounds of my heart, to answer positively the question and tell me, "Yes, you have what it takes to come through in a pinch because you are strong because I created you in My image," would have undoubtedly stopped and processed this moment as a personal defeat taking all the negatives thereof upon myself and into my world. You know them--sulking, snapping at your wife, disappearing into the television or the internet, etc.

But, I didn't.

After missing 100kg from the above the knee to a full (classic) snatch at least 7 times, I decided to put 110kg on the bar. (For the record, I am currently strong enough to power snatch 100kg from the above knee position--the point of the exercise was to get under the bar.) The exercise was 2 pulls from above knee followed by 1 classic snatch. It seemed I just couldn't get the bar on top of me: I was either cutting the pull or kicking the bar away.

I missed the first rep with 110kg.

I missed the second.

The third I was unhappy with--it was kind of an ugly hybrid of a power snatch and a classic snatch. At this point, my first coach would've made me stop--too much negative grooving. This is where my mind was at this point. But in my heart, I knew that I could snatch 110kg--today.

So I stayed and fought for a fourth.

All the aforementioned questions were racing through my head. At this particular moment, a man must just decide who he is and act, regardless of the outcome. If he knows without a shadow of a doubt who he really is, then some form of success awaits him, even in the midst of defeat.

The fourth was beautiful. And strong.

I had won the wrestling match in my mind and the battle against my heart.

It's moments like this one that will undoubtedly keep fueling the fire to compete and win in a body that's altogether stronger at 34 than 24. I could not have done it without the training I had received for the past 3+ years.

And that's where I left it.

Soli Deo Gloria.


Blogger Tim Anderson said...

Sometimes, even though we know who we are and who we belong to, an arrow is shot that makes us forget, makes us doubt. It's a sweet victory though when you wrestle with the wound and know who you are. "I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me."

9:41 PM  
Blogger Franz Snideman said...


loved your post. And naturally, as a 34 to be (next month) I am battling with many of the same issues myself in my life and in my sport (track and field). The fact that we are created in the image of GOD proves that we are capable of things beyond imagination and logic. But the essence of man which you so beautifully identified, is his HEART, his SOUL, his inner moral framework that pushes him to try, do, act and achieve!

I think this INNER reality, this spiritual center, is where ALL strength comes from. And if we are brutally honest with ourselves, aren't the greatest battles we face always inside of us, inside our minds, our hearts and souls?

Jesus himself taught this so beautifully that EXTERNAL religion, acts and laws were inferior to the inner attributes which drove a man to behave outwardly based on what was already inside him internally.

As King Solomon said "Above all else, guard you heart, for it is the wellspring of life." -Proverbs 4:23

His words, wellspring of life, says it all. It means the place from which it all comes. Success and failure alike arise from what is going on inside, and the wise person is one who pays attention.

Great to see you battling brother! At the end of the day, that's what it's all about.

11:36 PM  
Blogger Iron Tamer said...

Preach it brother Geoff!

8:55 AM  
Blogger Mark Toomey said...

Beautiful sentiments.

Looking forward to seeing you Thursday and introducing you to Kari.

5:12 PM  
Blogger Geoff Neupert said...

Tim, Franz, Dave, Mark--Thanks, fellas. Going back to the lion's den right now...

6:54 PM  

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