God has rarely ever spoken to me in a voice that I can audibly hear. He's used other ways and other people including a method that is remarkably like when my dad used to thump me on the head with his thumb and ring finger when I'd complain about what my mom cooked for dinner. But, audibly? Not so much.
I'd already had this soundtrack in rotation on my iPod. It made great running music for those early Saturday morning five-mile training runs ("Come on, if Maximus can battle lion, tigers, and Nubians, oh my! Then you can certainly get your tuchus maximus out of bed and hit the asphalt" is kinda how the self-talk went).
A wee bit of background: I had been training in muay thai/boxing/MMA four years by this point (we were a combo church/gym - our pastor was a former fighter). Although I had participated in smokers and sparring, I had yet to actually get to step in the cage and that was all I really wanted. I'd told God all I wanted was one fight - just one - and they kept getting set up and then cancelled or called off for any number of reasons which, as you might imagine, was a little frustrating.
What I had also been dealing with during those four years was a rather intensive lesson from God in self-worth. In my gym, I was also the oldest female and the only heavyweight female. Having been big or overweight the majority of my life, I had taken to being sarcastic or self-deprecating about it. Hey, if I get there first, nobody else can say anything, right?
What I didn’t realize as I continued to work and sweat was that I was earning the respect of the other people in the gym – fighters and non-fighters, men and women. People would use me as an example to new folk coming into the gym. I was told multiple times that nobody worked as hard as I did. I had a cross that would drop a cow. And I missed all of this because I was still so wrapped up in being “fat” and feeling like I continually had to prove myself because I *wasn’t* a size six with bouncy hair and slender thighs. I was too sure that I must have been made wrong. Getting the fight became THE thing that would prove my worth to myself and everyone around me. Never mind what people were saying about me. Never mind that people were telling me to my face (guy fighters, too, which still knocks me out to this day) "You're my inspiration" or "you're my hero". I had my self-worth so twisted up that all I heard in my head was "Yeah, you're an okay fighter/person for a fat chick."
Ah, the stupidity which your mind assures you must be true :P.
In November 2008, I had a(nother) fight scheduled. When you get news that a match has been made for you, that's when you steadily start ramping up your workouts, working to a point where you are at your maximum peak just before the fight but not working so much that you overtrain and are exhausted. I was at less than two weeks out from the match before - you guessed it - my opponent cancelled on me. To say I was disappointed would be putting it mildly.
To his everlasting credit, the Spousal Unit sat me down and reminded me that as a fighter and instructor at the gym, I had a lot of people looking up to me; ergo, I had two choices. One, I could whine and cry and moan about how unfair it all was and how I got screwed out of yet another fight, and how the fat chick was never going to get her shot or I could go for what was behind the second door, Monty. I could suck it up in front of those people who were looking up to me and admit that, yeah, it sucked but, hey, that's what happens sometimes and now it was just time to buckle down and prepare for the next opportunity.
And, sweetie, remember that guy named Job? Remember when God said if you know so much better, why don't you go give it a shot? Every time you're saying stuff about how your body is this or that, you're saying God didn't know what He was doing when in fact He'd make you the same way all over again. Why? Because you're the only one who can do what He wants you do to. All those people who look up to you don't care about your looks. It's your character they gravitate to.
Cue the clue-by-four whacking me upside the head as the message finally started to sink in.
So I went out for my training run the Saturday after the fight cancellation. While I was running, a couple specific songs came on my iPod and I felt like God was giving me a heads up that He wanted my attention for some reason. This song - The Gladiator Waltz - was one of them. This version contains Maximus' speech to his men just before they attack the Germanic tribes and, at the end of the speech just before the music starts, he says, "What we do in life echoes in eternity". The music itself lasts about eight or nine minutes and I kept running on my route all through it. Right after this song finished, I very clearly heard God say "Continue to appreciate the journey."
By that, I understood that I had to let go of (1) the need to fight as a way of somehow proving myself and (2) getting rid of the "fat chick" mentality. I had already proved myself - just been too blind to see it - and, really, how often do you get to be somebody's hero? I also had to drop the idea that I was "made wrong" because I wasn't. I was made the way I was supposed to be because there is a purpose in how I was made. I have a purpose now with the body I have and the skills I have and not when I reach some mythical idea of perfection that I've created. That doesn't mean I can't or shouldn't diet but I can't allow my weight to take over and become what defines me. I can strive to reach a goal but I can't let it consume me to the point where it affects my self-worth to the point where I "live or die" by whether or not I reach it.
What I was doing in the gym through training and teaching and spending time with the women there had a greater and far-reaching effect than just me showing them how to throw a kick or a proper left hook. I was there to minister as well and, sad to say, there were times I got so wrapped up in my issues that I probably missed some opportunities. Once I received my clue-by-four, my perspective widened and, looking back, I can see where my opportunities to minister grew as well. I realized the choices I make and how I live them out not only affect the people around me, they may also impact people I may never even be aware of.
In March 2009, I finally got my fight. I knew it was the one God had for me now that my perspective was where it should be. (I won - woohoo!). Since then, I can't say I haven't still had some bad days where my hair does anything but bounce or behave, and days where I'd like to donate my body fat to medical science (no, really, you can keep it!); however, on those days, I try to remind myself that God took the time to speak to me about continuing to appreciate the journey.
I also figured that since God used one of my primary sources (music) to get my attention, I would give myself a permanent reminder so I had Maximus' speech tattooed on me in Latin:
May I always do my best to live by it.