I'll never forget it. I was nineteen; the newest member of a very small band of brothers. We weren't an official group on the Baylor University campus, by any means, these "Russell Rats." We had no membership roster, no board of directors or rules and regulations to speak of, but we were very exclusive. And although we weren't organized, we did pay our dues -- dues of a different kind that were collected daily. As far as acceptance into the group, well, it just happened. Call it a nonverbal recognition of pure heart. If you had it, you were in. And rather than Greek letters across our chest, we had chalk and sweat across our backs. There was no mistaking our crew.
In the late 80s, a small family of guys came one by one into the best (and only) fitness center on campus, Russell Gymnasium. The gym itself was actually a corner hole-in-the-wall within a bigger auditorium of basketball courts, with a two-tone, green concrete wall separating the outdated Universal equipment and rusty dumbbells from the courts next door.
Well, one sunny Waco afternoon, at a campus-wide celebration called Diadeloso (Day of the Bear), the group decided to enter itself into the annual tug-of-war competition. We wanted nothing more than to show the fraternities what real strength felt like. After a lot of hooplah, we marched -- in slow motion if I recall -- onto the sand. We could hear the audible gasp from the opposition. We nodded to one another with pre-victory smiles. After all, not only were we obviously strong, we had ourselves a plan. We reasoned that because we outweighed the competition, only half the team would pull when the whistle blew. And when one of us gave the signal, the rest of us would begin pulling. Trust me. We had it covered.
Well, we found our grip as our competition found theirs. I remember they were a preppy bunch. Handsome. But no doubt mismatched. We did our best not to giggle or point. The referee raised his hand to alert the start of the match and the whistle blew. And?!.....We got crushed. Within 20 seconds, we were pulled across the line. It honestly felt as if the rope was somehow cleverly tied to an F-150. What happened you ask? Well, a couple things actually. First, they had seven guys and we had six. Completely fair because the only limit was total weight, but an extra pair of arms pays off come to find out. But I think we lost miserably because we were overly confident and planned poorly.
Why the long stroll down memory lane? Well, if I learned anything that day as I lay face down, swallowing dirt and pride, it's that we can never underestimate the enemy in life, and we can't wait to start pulling. Plainly said, we have to give it all we have, never saving anything for the second half, the second set, the climb down, or the swim back. We can't wait to share Christ, visit the widow, give to the needy. The fact that you're reading and I'm typing means we're knee deep in sand and it's quick.
Friends, we have to be humble constantly and plan wisely. In every area of life, be it with quiet times, workouts, relationships, school, work...a humble heart and wisdom will please God every time. So hang on tight. And when the sun comes up and you've given God your day, just start pulling.
P.S. Four years later, I led a team of seven onto the sand. We won every match but the last one; to a team of eight.
For Discussion: Say "Amen" to new grace and mercy this Monday.