Desolation as the Prelude to Grace: Learning from Ronda Rousy

“When he was nothing but a suspended carcass, dripping with his own blood and other people’s spit, there were no worshippers around clapping their hands and singing their hymns. They were long gone. At the very end, ironically at the moment of greatest triumph, he had no followers left.”

So writes Giles Fraser of The Guardian, waxing eloquent about the final hours of Christ’s earthy life . . . before his resurrection.

A number of years ago, Christians were up in arms over Ted Turner’s comment that “Christianity is for losers.” Although I can’t pinpoint the exact reason why, I’ve never been offended by those words. Oddly enough, I agree with him. Christ is a bottom feeder. He came for the broken, the defeated, the ostracized, marginalized, and alienated.

Remember when you were in high school and there were those people you considered weird or awkward, the people you wanted to avoid? Christ is drawn to people like that. Don’t get me wrong, Christ came to save all kinds of people: Popular kids, rich people, soccer moms, and AWANA champions. Before one receives grace, however, we must confess that we don’t deserve grace; we must agree with God about our assessment: We’re lost, helpless, hopeless, and deserve the exact opposite of grace, which is to say, we deserve death and condemnation. And we must confess that if God were to judge us for our sins and transgressions and consign us to hell, the punishment would be justly deserved. Desolation is the prelude to grace.

Which brings me to Ronda Rousey. This past weekend MMA fans witnessed the defeat, the desolation of a legend. Ms. Rousey stepped in the ring the undefeated champion of the world. Shortly thereafter, however, things took a turn for the worse. To be frank, it was hard to watch. It wasn’t pretty. Holly Holm, (whose father is a pastor, hence why she’s known as “The Preacher’s Daughter”), took her to task. A minute into the second round, Rousey was on the floor and the referee had stepped in to stop the fight.

Many MMA fans have asked, “What went wrong? How did she lose in such a decisive fashion?” One sports analyst opined that Rousey looked nervous, as if she, the undefeated champion, had something to prove. Meanwhile, the preacher’s daughter, the one trying to unseat the champion, looked as cool as a cucumber. According to this writer, Rousey’s inward desire to prove herself worked against her. The result? Defeat.

Just one day ago, a TMZ video surfaced showing Rousey leaving LAX surrounded by cameras snapping pictures. But don’t worry. No one could see her face. Apparently, Rousey was too ashamed to let anyone see her face. She’s embarrassed by what Holly Holm did to her appearance. In all honesty, I feel sorry for her. Yet at the same time the words of the ancient sage appear once again to be vindicated: “Pride goeth before destruction” (Prov. 16:18).

I may not have been beaten up like Ronda Rousy, but I know what it’s like to feel ashamed. I know what it’s like to want to run and hide. I know what it’s like to not want people to see your face. I know what it’s like to want desperately to prove yourself and then suffer a humiliating defeat. It’s awful. It’s the opposite of fun. It’s in those moments that God reminds me just how weak I am. It’s in those moments I realize that, even though I’m almost thirty-three years old, I’m still basically a little kid who wants to know everything’s going to be okay. The warrior is a child after all.

This is why I love Jesus. I love that when I’m with him, I don’t have to prove myself. I can finally breathe a sigh of relief. I can rest in the fact that not every word will be analyzed, for he knows my heart. I can rest in the fact that his approval doesn’t rest on my accomplishments; my reward doesn’t depend on my performance. He performed for me. I then breathe another sigh of relief.

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