Monday, October 21, 2013

Worth Fighting For

It was shortly after the letdown of my introductory gun class.  

After firing a gun left me with shaking hands, I realized that to sharpen my fight I needed to dig a little deeper. Life isn't just curling up on my couch and reading Pilgrim's Progress with a cup of weak tea, you know?  I needed to be ready to protect my home from critters and the like.  I did a little researching and made some calls to local schools of martial arts.  Taekwondo...raccoon deterrent...anyone with me?

The woman returning my call had an accent that foretold of new and exciting adventures.  Unfortunately, maybe it was my accent or perhaps my faltering telephone pragmatics, but I found myself on the other end of the phone trying to explain that it was me interested in Taekwondo lessons, not the 4-year old who had answered the phone when she called.

"Yes, yes!"  she responded to my explanation.  "Come tomorrow.  5 o'clock."

"Me?" I tried to clarify.  "Or my son?"

"Yes. Both of you.  5 o'clock."

"Well, it's actually three of us.  But, it's just me that wants to try the class.  And if it goes good, you know, down the road, I'm looking for something for all of us."

"Yes, yes. 5 o'clock."

This was going nowhere.  "Umm, okay.  See you then."

Naturally, I was a little uneasy come 5 o'clock the next day.  And as we walked in the door, my uneasiness swelled to full fledged sweaty anxiety as I gazed around the class, taking in the floor to floor mats, punching bags, and a room full of miniature students already hard at work.  I tried to inconspicuously herd my children to the chairs reserved for parents and onlookers along the side of the gym, however the head instructor swooped in with a smile and invited A and E to join the class.  My kids looked at me suspiciously, suspecting sabotage, having been under the assumption that if anything, they'd be watching me in class.  I nodded and gestured that they should go, feigning a bright Go ahead, you'll have a great time smile when, in fact, I was becoming a little uneasy watching these little tykes pummel boxing bags and kick the air higher than they stood.  We were lovers, not fighters, my family and I--when would I just accept that?   But, as I watched the class the next 45 minutes I grew more and more intrigued with the discipline of it all.  The synchrony and grace of the forms.  The uninhibited dramatic flair.  It was like watching dancers, but without all the glitz and sparkles, and E especially fell into it immediately.

At the end of the class, we were summoned into a small room by the grand master.  She sat across from us at a large desk in an office that was filled with photographs of champion competitors including herself and tall trophies which my children eyed eagerly from my lap.  The grand master's eyes were friendly and she wore a warm smile, but I couldn't quite get comfortable around her knowing that she could kill me with her bare hands if she were so inclined.   It was exactly how I wanted people to feel around me.  She pushed some paperwork across the desk towards me.  Contracts, plans, and numbers, all of which make my brain go kind of fuzzy.  Already intimidated, I looked down to make sense of some of the numbers in front of me.  The air left my body.  Well, this would be an easy decision.

"Thank you for letting us come to watch", I looked up smiling nervously.  "But, I'm sorry, I think this is out of our price range.  I'll give it some thought and get back to you."  I added the last part halfheartedly, knowing there would be no getting back to anyone.

If only it were that easy.

"I give you discount." she stated matter of factly.   She made some fast marks on the paper.  I tried to take notes and add figures in my head.

"You sign the three-year contract, and you get even more discount."

"No, no.  I can't do a three-year contract,"  I whined.  "I haven't even tried a class yet.  Can I get out of the contract if I don't like the class once I try it?"

"Oh, you'll like it.  And of course, if you move away or break a leg I can cancel the contract."  

E wiggled down from my lap and started rifling through a box of t-shirts on the floor.  A took it as his cue to hop up and start poking at a four-foot trophy precariously perched on the desk in front of us.  I was too stressed to restrain them.  

"Taekwondo very good for discipline."

My Achilles heal.  I signed.

I drove home feeling like a sucker.  How ironic that I was taking classes to mentally and physically strengthen myself from instructors who saw my weaknesses and immediately pounced.

Naturally, I blamed my mother.  

I spent that evening distracted, sleeping fitfully with the knowledge that I'd be spending much more than I pay each month for my car to take lessons in humiliation, learning to hammer kick little nine-year old black belts.  But, I'd signed a contract.  In ink.  I recognized this as having given my word.  My stomach turned and tightened... my internal signal to stop the worry; stop it all; pray; listen; read.

 So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?”  (Hebrews 13:6)
Just the reminder I needed.  The notes of my study Bible indicate that this verse applies the idea of trusting in God for more than just financial needs.  I woke with stomach pains gone.  I made the call in the morning and ventured back to meet with the instructor the next afternoon. I did not feel confident, but felt no fear.  I knew what I had to do.

"I'm sorry."  I started kindly once she'd led me back to her office.  I explained my situation.  She offered more discounts.

"I really am not trying to get you to lower your price."  I tried again.  "Your price is fair.  It just isn't in my budget right now."

She nodded. "How much can you afford?"  I told her honestly.  It was the number I'd come up with two nights ago, trying to figure out how to work it all out, realizing it wouldn't be worth mentioning to her as it was so far below their tuition it might come across as insulting.

"Okay."  she said to my utmost surprise.  I must have looked dumbfounded.

 "Listen," she continued.  "You need this.  This is good for you.  Good for your kids."

So all this happened.  We're off on a new adventure.  And a certain Taekwondo grand master is getting herself a whole lotta eggs for Christmas.  But the goodness out of it; the wondrous goodness was that great big awesome reminder that any strength that comes out of me does not come from me.  And that is good.