Ok, go ahead, if you will, and spew forth all of your "midlife crisis alert" comments, and then we will get to the nitty-gritty.
At age 37, I pursued professional wrestling as a pastime. I met a group who uses the platform of pro-wrestling as a means to proclaim the gospel. I love wrestling, and I love Jesus. I reasoned that I wasn't getting any younger, and having been divorced, was limited in my ministry options. Welcome to life in the buckle of the Bible belt.
For six weeks I trained every Saturday. I would literally ache in places I had no inkling would hurt, but I went back for more every week. Additionally, I was building a camaraderie with a group of people that I can now say I dearly love. I was improving in skill, not hurting quiet as much, and so Timothy, aka T-Money, the CEO of WFJ www.wrestlingforjesus.org thought I was ready to make my wrestling debut...
...as a referee. It wasn't a world title shot, but I was on it. Our first show was out in the middle of nowhere in a place called Branchville, SC. We arrived early, and I wanted to get in wrestling training before the show. T-Money enlisted one of WFJ's distinguished veterans, a cool cat named Dynamite Dave, to work with me. Dave had been beaten with a strap by the legendary Wahoo McDaniel early in his career, and knew a lot of the legends I grew up watching on TV as a teenager. So I was honored to have him teach me some basics.
One of the premiere wrestling moves everyone must master is called a "back bump." You literally fall backwards, tuck your chin, and land on your shoulder blades, which absorb the shock quite nicely if you do it right. I was not. So Dave was going to use one of the more effective methods of training me to teach me how to do a professional back bump. I was a most eager student.
I assumed the ready position (later to find out there was no actual ready position in wrestling...only tennis) and without warning, which is the proper way to master this technique, Dynamite Dave hit me with the force of a perfect dropkick. I went back with heavy force, and, somewhat startled, instinctively reached out to catch myself (NEVER DO THIS) the next thing I recall is the sound of my right forearm literally snapping. I heard the snap, then I looked at my arm (NEVER DO THIS EITHER) and realized my right forearm was in the shape of a capital "C."
Suddenly I was the object of much attention. I regretted this because I really was about to vomit. Another wrestler, Deuce, told me to breathe deeply. The nausea began to subside, but the pain was unbelievable. One of our security guys was also an EMT, and for 45 minutes while we waited on the ambulance (recall I am in the middle of nowhere) held my arm in traction, easing the pain somewhat. Thanks again, Brian!
There is an old saying among Christians that sometimes a man has to get flat on his back in order to look up at God. On March 12, 2005, I was that man. I had been running from God, running from ministry, and running from myself. Now I was literally flat on my back in a strange place. I recalled an old sermon of mine based on Psalm 23 where I illustrated that actual Shepherds will break the leg of a sheep if it falls into the "Cast" position, where they have fallen over and cannot get up due to the excess weight and fleece. The shepherd first shears the sheep of all its fleece, the thing that makes it most significant. He then takes the naked sheep and breaks its right foreleg. The result of this is that the sheep now has to be carried by the shepherd for awhile. Also, the shepherd deliberately places the ear of the sheep over his heart. Eventually, the sheep, which would have otherwise died, regains its equilibrium and is able to rejoin the flock.
That is what I needed. Just to be out of commission for awhile and listen to the Shepherd's Heart. It was truly a life-changing experience.
Tonight WFJ is back in Branchville, and I'm going. I will most likely do ringside commentary and maybe help with the ministry part afterwards. Can't get hurt that way. It is now 7 months later, and my arm is 98% healed. It has been a long process. I will need to wait at least 6 months to begin wrestling training again. I will be 38 years old. We'll see what happens. What will I feel as I walk into that gymnasium so far away from home and everything else? I don't know. I do know that I have an 8 inch scar on my right forearm that daily reminds me of how awesome God is, and of how NOT to take a back bump.