Gladiator Days

“Why don’t you get in line?” I motioned to my sons above the throng of voices, excited shouts, and laughter filling the warehouse-sized-indoor-bouncy-playground.

The Gladiator Pit snagged 10-year-old Chase’s attention, with its four pedestals of foam and bulky weapons for knocking opponents into the squishy cubes littering the pit’s base.

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The current “ruler” of the Gladiator Pit stood proudly in the center, one victory from gaining the golden belt after nine rounds of knocking competitors off.

Chase drank it all in with unbounded eagerness. Though not as competitive as his older brother, he has always loved wrestling-type activities. His smile broadened as the teenaged employee handed him a foam stick, then he crawled across the huge cubes to balance on the orange pedestal.

Cole followed with a frog-legged leap, concentration tightening his features. He stands a few inches taller than Chase now, but Chase is solid and strong, and I was curious to see the outcome.

The four boys faced each other, gripping their long blue foam sticks. When the young employee blew his whistle, the Gladiator fight erupted.

Single-minded and still smiling, Chase leapt off his pedestal, launching his entire body at the current champion across from him. Down the poor boy went, deep into the cubes. Chase regained his balance and pivoted to womp the boy going after Cole.

His momentum knocked that boy and Cole from their pedestals so quickly my sister, nephew, and I burst out laughing at Chase’s victorious grin and the speed at which the action had unfolded.

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I grinned back at my excited younger son and his infectious joy. And it reminded me of one of my life verses, Acts 20:24.

“But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

A couple of rounds later, Cole strategized and easily took his brother and two other boys down–but still, Chase wore a big smile.

In the pursuit of our God-given dreams, we will attain victory–and we will get knocked down. How can we truly experience all that with joy? All those ups and downs?

In Acts chapter twenty, Paul calls the elders of the church of Ephesus to him (v 17). He warns and encourages them of what’s to come in the early church. “So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (32).

Then, Paul closes with what I consider the key to maintaining our joy in any kind of circumstances…whether we’re getting knocked down or holding our hands high in victory. “And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (35).

We all have Gladiator days–the days when we’re knocked flat on our face, or when we stand tall in victory. But I promise, the most joy you’ll receive on this journey toward God’s heart and your dreams is in giving of yourself and serving others.

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