How Well Can You Take a Punch?

My wife and I are casual boxing fans. We enjoy watching some of the bigger fights, especially with personalities like Manny Pacquiao and the British boxer Ricky Hatton (when he was in his prime). The famous fighter, Joe Frazier, passed away yesterday at the age of 67, and I was caught up watching highlights of him on ESPN. Frazier was ahead of my timeand I have onlyseen replays of his battles with Ali. But yesterday, as they showed footage of the fighter in his youth, I was struck with how similar his power and intimidating presence was to a guy from my generation… Mike Tyson.

The young Tyson would come to the ring in all black, Public Enemy’s music blaring in the background and simply devastate his opponents in the first moments of a fight. I don’t remember anyone in those early years lasting much more than a round with him.

Fight talk aside (for a second) I usually remember Tyson, not for his bouts or his role in The Hangover, but for his philosophy. That’s right. I remember him for landing one of my all time favorite quotes:

Everybody has a plan, ‘till they get punched in the mouth.”

I know we are a sports-obsessed culture and often beat these metaphors like well-worn punching bags, but there are few lines that offer a more potent lesson for our day-to-day lives.

We begin our work each morning with a plan or a goal. At some point in our day, we are hit with a crisis, a complaint, some kind of resistance that will threaten to derail our aims or steal the joy from our labor. Ultimately, we will get punched in the mouth.

We operate in our friendships, marriages, working relationships and as parents with plans and dreams; but at some point, each and every human relationship will let us down. Our hopes and designs will no longer seem to fit. We will get punched in the mouth.

We approach our faith each morning wanting to be a better person, longing for fulfillment, hoping for real and lasting change in our lives. At some point during the day, we will respond with ugliness. We will lash out, manipulate, gossip, steal, lie or cheat. We will feel the farthest thing from spiritual, a long way from who we hope and pray to be… we will get punched in the mouth.

Everybody has a plan, ‘till they get punched in the mouth.”

We can’t avoid it — eventually we will always get punched in the mouth.Life isn’t about avoiding the hit… so is it about sticking to the plan? Tyson was right, often our plans won’t appear real clear after we take a good shot in the mouth.

Without faith, the resolve to press on staggers hopelessly across the ring like a fighter oneupper-cut away from being KO’d, because our plan is also our only hope. But as people of faith, we are defined by how we respond to “the punch.”

Our hope is secured in something more substantial and lasting than any plan we could conceive. To put it in pugilistic terms: we aren’t as concerned about taking the punch because we know what the judges have written on the scorecard of this twelve-round match, and the end of this fight isn’t based on our performance or the punch count.

Its never about our plan… Its about staying in the fight.

That means we shouldn’t be afraid to get into the ring with the Tysons and Fraziers of life.

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