I remember watching the movie Cinderella Man in 2005. A story of tremendous courage during the Great Depression. It is the story of a fighter, a professional boxer and his journey through life as a husband and a father. It is a story about leadership and strength, I remember writing in my journal after watching it that I wanted to be a Cinderella Man.
In the past ten years I have smiled through tears more than once as I reflected upon that journal entry. When I wrote it, the scene of his victory over a seemingly undefeatable obnoxious villain was fresh in my mind. The reason that I would smile when I thought of that entry was because I had the end of the story in mind when I wrote it. Sure, Ihad admired the Cinderella Man's character throughout the movie, but I hadn't been thinking about how the dream to be him would play out in my relatively peaceful life. I certainly hadn't realized that in order for there to be a victory worth cheering about there would have to be some losses, broken bones, and unexplainable circumstances along the way. Ten years later I understand.
I remember the first time someone in ministry turned their back on me. The time a close friend that I had invested in told me that I was deceived and that there was a black cloud hanging over my home. I remember wanting to call the bank and tell them to come repossess the car, because I was tired of trying to explain that they would get their money as soon as I got mine. I remember believing that a breakthrough was coming and that I was going to land a consulting job, only to find out that they weren't actually interested in what I brought to the table. I remember getting to the ultrasound room just in time for the technician to tell my wife and I that there was no life in Heather's womb. I remember how angry I was when the doctor came in a few minutes later to tell us that there had not been one life lost, but two. Heather had been pregnant with twins as God had told me she was, but they had just stopped growing.
I remember wanting throw in the towel as I sliced mushrooms at the beginning of 12 weeks of kitchen training that was now somehow part of my destiny. I remember sitting at what I thought would be an encouraging breakfast and being told that I couldn't carry the heart of God to the youth group as originally intended because some people didnt feel good about who I was as a person. I remember asking if there were specifics, only to be told no. I remember weeping with my wife after our fifth miscarriage, when she had spent the bulk of that year surrendering the decision to get pregnant to the Lord.
During these times it didn't feel like I was learning how to be a Cinderella Man, but I was.
In order to live a story that is going to get anyone's attention there has to be some challenge in it. There has to be some snot on it. Anyone can smile and love those around them when there is money in the bank and favor all around. It takes character to live through challenges and deal with nastiness that comes to the surface, both in you and in others. To continue loving and trusting and moving forward, free from bitterness. It is like the difference between smiling and reading stories from scripture that communicate 1 Corithians 13, and sharing stories from your own life that exemplify love with tears streaming down your face. Both have some substance, but one has more depth. It has more authority and it has the ability to connect with those who have a few wrestling matches in their own lives.
I am glad that I told God I wanted to be a Cinderella Man. While I am not positive that he needed that request to throw into motion some of the things that he has in my life, I am glad that he did, and I am glad that I am still walking with him. I have the ability to relate and connect with people now in a way that was foreign to me before. I understand the offensiveness of hollow words that come from well intentioned hearts. I have little time for cute sermons or fiery declarations that do not involve personal testimony of how the message has been interwoven into the words of their story. I have learned how to love, and how to fight, and how to bleed. How to be healthy, and how to listen along the way. Not waiting to talk, but listen. I have learned to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. Have I learned to be a Cinderella Man? I have learned how to win by learning to handle a few losses.
And for that, I am thankful.