The Boxer…


I’ve had the old Simon and Garfunkel tune “The Boxer” going round my head today. Some days it’s Billy Joel’s “Innocent Man”, but today “The Boxer” was firmly stuck.

I find much refuge in music, especially when things are going tough for me. The last couple of years have been very difficult personally with a lot of attack in my personal life, some of which I have already shared here, some of which I will get to when the time is right, and some of which is my own business.

I hit my birthday hard this year. For the last few years it’s been a rough day, but today felt particularly tough.

Enter the song.

OK, technically my birthday was yesterday (16th) but I’ve not been to sleep yet. I hit 44 this year. Not long in the grand scheme of things, but somehow it came with a nudge this year.

If I died in my sleep tonight, what do I leave behind me?

I don’t have children yet – I’ve always wanted to be a dad, it just hasn’t happened so far – so there’s no genetic legacy to pass on. Would it even be noticed if I went quietly into the night?

I had the vision for EWM almost 20 years ago, but it took until February 2011 before I moved on the idea and started this blog. Since then things have been difficult. I felt after an unapproved edit of one post I’d written was published by another site I was writing for that I had to stop and focus on this blog and developing EWM in Cape Town, then reaching out from there.

I always mis-heard the lyrics of “The Boxer” at one point. 
I have squandered my resistance

For a pocket full of mumbles, such are promises
All lies and jests
Still a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest

I heard it as “I have squandered my existence“. Today that felt true. The question kept ringing in my mind through the day.

“Innocent Man” has the lyric “Some people stay far away from the door, when there’s a chance of it opening up”, which has also been a theme in my life. I have other, more optimistic songs that rattle round my head as well, but these two have been stuck for the last few days.

If the story of my life truly is the story of a long, brutal assault on my heart then it stands to reason that in that battle I will have days where I get battle-fatigue. It certainly feels that way at the moment. It is a monumental task just to get out of bed in the morning some days. I was manager of a medical practice for over ten years. Technically I still am now after 13, but I’ve felt very strongly I need to pull away from it. My focus drifts when I’m not challenged very easily, the doctors tell me it’s Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and medicated me accordingly. I changed dramatically on the medication, but felt like Jekyll and Hyde as the effects only last about 9-12 hours and I’m typically awake more than that. I very quickly came to detest the medicated version of myself. He had no compassion and was ruthless – just like a business manager should be – but I couldn’t switch it off when I was out of the office. So after a few months on this “wonder-drug” I stopped taking it and within a week was back to being myself.

The problem is part of me misses the medicated man. He was organised in a conventional way, driven and tough. He was a first class businessman.

He was a douche who wasn’t a pleasant person to be around and I was stuck sharing a body with him.

I suddenly hope my shrink doesn’t read this blog or I may be writing the next entry from the local nut house.

It’s a couple of years since I was medicated, but the memory of that “clarity” is very sharp.

I carry the reminder of every glove that laid me down or cut me til I cried out in my anger and my shame ‘I am leaving, I am leaving’ but the fighter still remains…

I am the boxer in the song. I think part of it is just life as a Christian. John Eldredge is right when he says Satan sees what we can be and fears it, so he wages war against our hearts (paraphrased from “Waking the Dead” – BRILLIANT book!)

After my dad died in 1999 I turned my back on everything outside my own house except church. I was depressed in a way you can’t understand if you’ve never experienced it.

I cut into my own arms with a blade to feel something other than the emotional pain, and it gave me relief for a while, but then I needed to cut again. For two years I didn’t wear short sleeves – and I’m someone who suffers in the heat. I took an overdose on four occasions in an attempt to end my own life.

It’s impossible to explain what drives a person to that point, but I know for certain what brought me back from it.

The last time I took an OD I think I actually died. Or at least, my experience was not one like anything else I’ve had. I descended, felt myself sinking into darkness. There was no tunnel, no light, just cold and dark. I was completely alone – and I mean utterly and totally alone in a way that defies description.

My first encounter with Jesus was as real as sitting with a friend. I sat with Him. He sat with me. He let me grieve my brother’s death and showed me how the prayers of my dad and his dad had held me over the previous few months, and how each time I’d begun to fall He had been there to pick me up – but I rejected Him out of anger. It broke me and I gave Him my life.

In 1999, 14 years after that meeting I encountered Jesus again. Just as real, just as physical, but in a very different way.

Through the darkness that enveloped me and in the cold of that isolation there was suddenly something else. A power beyond anything else ripped into the darkness and tore it away from me, and Jesus was there again. He hugged me and I felt His strength to fight enter me.

Then I woke up.

I’m not going to say there haven’t been times since then I’ve felt like giving up. In the last five years if it hadn’t been for the presence of my dearest friend I would not be here to write this blog. I stood on the roof of the building I was working in as emotions hit me from all sides and snapped me like kindling, and all I wanted to do was step off the roof – five floors onto concrete. Instead, that same strength that had pulled me out of the darkness took hold and I “came to” to find myself sitting with her and we prayed.

Today I felt the rage that drives me to that self-destructive place in me again. My friend no longer lives in the same city as me and it didn’t occur to me to use a phone (far too simple), so I sat with the pain. But the strength to pull through came again.

“the fighter still remains”.

I was fortunate when I cut myself. Somehow only one cut left a permanent scar on my arm about an inch long and so faded now that nobody sees it but me. My skin healed so it looks like it was never touched. I know others who went through self-harming who were left badly scarred on the outside. I can’t explain it, but I’m thankful for the way I was healed physically each time.

I used to watch heavyweight boxing when I was younger and the PC crowd were less vocal about the sport. More than once I saw a fighter come back and win having been put down. My “hero” in the sport was Frank Bruno, a British boxer who fought Mike Tyson for the Heavyweight title. He was taller and heavier than Tyson, and early in the fight he got in a punch that made the champion stagger and drop to his knee – the first time it had ever happened. I thought it was over, but Tyson got back up and about 2 rounds later the referee stopped the fight in Tyson’s favour. Bruno was the number one contender, but he lost because Tyson got back up and fought back and he couldn’t. Bruno is still in my opinion a better technical boxer than Tyson ever was, but he didn’t have the certainty the champion had going into the fight. Tyson was undefeated professionally whereas Bruno had lost a couple of fights. He lost, not because he was not as good, but because he wasn’t completely convinced when he climbed into the ring that night that he would be last man standing.

I treat every day the same. I try to enter it knowing that whatever Satan may throw at me I have Jesus in me and if I let Him fight I’ll be the last man standing at the end of the day.

More testimony than anything else today, but this entry comes from the same place one of my previous posts came from. I believe that there is a specific person who needed to hear that it’s ok to struggle. It’s not uncommon for any Christian to feel thrashed and like quitting.

But rather be the boxer.

Let the fighter remain.

Fight through the Cross and the Empty Tomb and be the last one standing when the dust settles.

The prize is worth the fight.
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