In 2009, I had the privilege of interviewing my nephew Michael about the art of wrestling. Now that he has made the Virginia Tech varsity team, I thought it was a good time to review what I learned from him that day.
I realized then that wrestling has much to teach us about training our families to persevere in our faith in Jesus Christ. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12).
Here is the article I wrote in 2009:
THE HEART TO GO ON – TEAM SUPPORT
Wrestling, as I discovered while watching my nephews in a regional tournament, builds character. Although I admired the grit of the young men on the mats, I couldn’t imagine what would make them want to go through the grueling physical punishment of wrestling day after day. My nephew Michael was kind enough to share his insights with me.
“It’s not what makes them want to wrestle, but the persons they are,” he said. “The ones who couldn’t make it have quit by January. The ones that have stayed really want to do it.”
“But what, “ I asked, “gives them the heart to keep on when it looks like a match is impossible to win?”
Michael pondered a minute. “We give it everything in our practices.
We don’t want our hard work to go to waste. It’s both a team and individual sport. You don’t want to give up six points to go against your team, even though you’re out there by yourself.”
He told me that a wrestling team is much like a family—really close, because they spend so many hours together. Michael said that before matches teammates will:
- Help each other warm up.
- Emotionally support one another.
- Encourage one another.
- Pump each other up.
- Go over wrestling moves together.
- Help each other get mentally prepared for the moves they will use in the match.
- Help one another prepare to “wrestle smart.”
- Get each other focused so they don’t “make any stupid mistakes.”
Practices consist of vigorous exercises and workouts, stretching and focusing, warmups, drills, wrestling with teammates, cooling down, stretching, final words from the coach, and social time. The coach also takes time to help out, evaluating each wrestler one on one.
So what can we learn from team wrestling to help us prepare our children and grandchildren to stand firm in their faith? We can train our family to work together like a team. Children face grueling spiritual and emotional battles whenever they encounter the culture, either outside the home or through the media. We can help prepare them for the “matches” they will face as we:
- Help them warm up. Start every day with Scripture and prayer.
- Emotionally support them. Ask gentle questions to help children open up about their questions, fears, and concerns. Then listen with open hearts.
- Encourage them. Remind your children that the powerful God who made them will be with them and go to battle for them if they trust Him.
- Pump them up. “Build up one another.” (1 Thess. 5:11) Help children develop their strengths and strengthen their weaknesses.
- Go over “wrestling moves” together. Review what the Bible says about how we should deal with sin and temptation. For example, we are to flee from the love of money and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, and perseverance (1 Tim. 6:10–11). Talk about what that means.
- Help them get mentally prepared for the moves they will use in the match. Review what children can do and how they can think biblically when faced with a challenge.
- Help them prepare to “wrestle smart.” Wrestling with sin, temptations, and worldly values is not something children can handle unprepared. Remind them to keep their focus on God. He will help them not to lose heart when they feel like giving up.
- Get them focused so they don’t “make any stupid mistakes.” Make your children accountable to you, to each other, to the church, and to God. Develop a team mentality among your children and grandchildren. Even though they may be fighting the match alone, remind them that they have a whole team behind them. And most of all they have the Creator of all life standing by their side. Remind them to keep their focus on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2).
Wrestling teams spend many hours together every week to build the team relationship. Take time to evaluate and encourage each child one on one and spend as many hours as possible together as a family, supporting, encouraging, and preparing one another for each match, each tournament with the outside world.
As a family, cheer each team member on, encourage each one never to give up, even if all looks lost. Help all members work hard at their training so that they won’t want to let their teammates or their Lord down, and so that their hard work will not go to waste.
As you build team spirit in your family, I pray that you as parents and grandparents will develop the heart to persevere—no matter how difficult the fight—and pass on that heritage to your children and grandchildren.
Copyright © Jeanne Gowen Dennis 2009