Recently I had a week of awkward engagements, mostly in the form of writing emails telling people what they don’t want to hear, or pushing into uncomfortable topics with others.
Yuck. I thought, “Is there a hole I can go crawl into now?” But each of those interactions was necessary because of the tough arenas of life God has called me into for this season.
Brene Brown, in her book Rising Strong, says, “an arena is any moment when or place where we have risked showing up and being seen.” Inspired by the Teddy Roosevelt 1910 speech (below), those arenas are places of blood, sweat, and tears, where we fight for what we believe in. We hope for victory, but know that failing is always a possibility.
This is a “venture into tough new arenas” year for me. They ask more of me than I want to give sometimes. These arenas call me to risk, lead, take stands, and put myself out there.
Can I be honest? Making a difference, affecting change, living bravely, all sounds great in theory. But it’s tiring. A lot of the time, I want to quit. Stop writing. Step away from leading. Let things go rather than fight for a stance. Comfort seems more appealing than potential failure, regardless of what I or others might gain.
It’s hard to put yourself out there when there’s a risk of falling on your face. So much more appealing to stay on those safe shores. And yet, we must keep fighting.
When I am tempted to step out of the arena, wipe the blood, sweat and tears off my face, and throw in the towel, I feel a check in my spirit. A voice says,
“Stay. Stay and fight. You don’t need to stop. You just need more truth for this.”
We don’t need to quit.
We just need to get stronger. And where does that strength come from? It comes from the truth. Here’s the secret to not quitting when life is tough:
We need a stronger theology for the arena.
What does that look like? To begin with, it means more strength training out of the ring. We train our minds with the truth; that this is for His glory, not our ours; that there is no failure so great to put us out of His reach; that every second in the ring is only possible because of His power, not our own; that a knock down does not define our worth.
The more we are called to the arena, the more we need to feed our minds and hearts the truth about who He is and who we are. Then, when we are tempted to quit, instead we choose to double down on those truths.
Second, we need to train our hearts to hear our coach’s voice, even in the thick of the fight. He is with us, for us, in us. No one is more for us in the arena than He is. We can’t always step out of the ring, so we must learn the moment by moment Yahweh breathing to slow our hearts and call us back to depend on His voice.
Staying in the arena means growing the humility to admit when we need a minute in the corner to catch our breath. We take time in the corner to get toweled off and refreshed by His Presence, His Spirit, His words. The longer we’re there, the harder it is, but there’s always a place of rest.
It’s hard to win without anyone in your corner. We need cheerleaders, people who know why we’re in there and believe in what we’re doing. Those are the people who will shout at us to get back up when we fall.
And we need to remember why we stepped into the arena in the first place. If this is God’s call, He gives us what we need to fight. He never promised easy. Nor did He promise victory in every battle. But if we strengthen our theology, we can stay in it until it’s finished, no matter how many times we fall.