By Paul Koch –
During my college years I found a sport that dramatically changed my life. I was never a great athlete in high school but had always been active. I played football, tried volley ball and even did some pole vaulting. Most of that ended when I found a love for working on old cars and spending all my free time surfing with my friends. But then in college, I found the great sport that is rugby. Rugby gave an outlet to a growing angst within me. It was an acceptable way to act out violently in public without ramification. It was addictive; it felt normal to laugh with a teammate after smashing an opponent so hard he started snoring when the impact of the ground knocked him out. It was violent, it was hard, it hurt, and we loved it.
I played Rugby for 16 years and it provided me with more than scars and painful joints; it was the key to my sanity through some of the most stressful times of my life. While I loved the comradery that develops amongst men engaged in the battle on the pitch, it was the physicality of it that I needed the most. I actually wanted to hit another person as hard as I could. I wanted them to take their best shot at me. I wanted to walk off the field with a smile on my face, daring them to try again. But this very thing that I loved also showed that there was something broken about me. The controlled aggression seemed to keep in check some greater and more self-destructive behavior that always lurked within.
Since hanging up my rugby boots a few years ago I have substituted it with CrossFit. The other day my coach at Beachside CrossFit blogged about what CrossFit is and why people do it. People, of course, have varying goals for being there; increased strength, greater endurance, or simply wanting to look better in a bathing suit. But for me, there is something more. For me, I do it because I’m broken. I continue to go to the gym because I’m afraid of what will happen if I stop. Not that I’ll get fat and slow, but rather I won’t have an outlet for the aggression that rises up within me. This anger might spill out in far more destructive ways.
As I enter the gym early in the morning, muscles aching and stiff, I am there to both confront my brokenness and confirm how broken I am.
Yet in this, there is a lesson about being a man. I am a husband, a father and a pastor. I am called to provide, protect, love, encourage and be gracious. I stand in the place and by the command of my Lord to speak his freeing Word of forgiveness to a world of hurting and guilt-ridden people. And yet I am broken. I am well aware and afraid of the war that wages within myself. Who am I to care for others when I barely seem to be able to take care of myself? How can I love and forgive when violence lurks just beneath the surface?
But here’s the thing: I’m called to be a husband, a father and a pastor today! Not some distant day in the future, some imaginary time when I have it all figured out, some brighter day of sunshine and rainbows and six pack abs and a peaceful calm of heart and soul. I cannot hide from my brokenness; I cannot fix it before I engage in the rest of my life. So, I must deal with the brokenness however I can.
I used to bleed on the rugby pitch, now I sweat and curse in the gym. The physical outlet helps me manage the brokenness. But in providing a release, it also reminds me of its limits to heal and guide. A broken man needs more than just a good workout. In being reminded of his inner war, he needs one who will speak to him of such a battle. We need to wrestle with a Word that speaks to us from the outside, the Word of one who will speak to our brokenness. We need one who will declare that we are too are forgiven, we also are loved and protected.
We need to be reminded again and again that our brokenness does not remove us from our calling to be men. Rather our brokenness reminds us of the necessity for forgiveness – both the forgiveness we speak and the forgiveness we receive. So as I look in the eyes of my children and feel the soreness in my shoulders and the lingering pain in my left knee, I am reminded that just as I have been forgiven and loved in my brokenness so I can freely forgive and love them.