When Life Punches You in the Face

“Emily’s a lover, not a fighter.” 

That one sentence had an unexpected impact on me. I think it was the beginning of my desire to prove myself strong, capable, brave.

(This next part is going to sound like a sad movie scene, but I think we all have those unreal moments in our lives. And we learn from them.) 

My college boyfriend was secretly seeing another girl while we were dating. When she asked him what would happen if I found out, he responded “You don’t have to worry. Emily’s a lover not a fighter.” 

And that was the beginning. From Joan of Arc, to dauntless, to Gryffindor, I have this deep desire to fight for myself, to prove myself. And while Joan of Arc played a huge role in my conversion, I have realized I’ve been missing something so fundamental about her. 

I’ve looked past something so important about the fight we all face. 

In prayer for the past few months I’ve seen myself in a boxing ring. (I’m visual. Walk with me here, people.) It’s me against all the trials, misunderstandings, and just plain painful situations of my year. At first, I really held my own. I was pretty strong. I was determined to stay positive, to see hardship as a gift, to stay in the game. I just had to keep fighting. I couldn’t give up. I would not give up. Because I’m a fighter dangit. 

But slowly, over time, all of the punches started slowing me down. I could see myself barely hanging on. And honestly, I was pissed. I had stayed prayerful, I continued to choose the good, I was trying to be grateful for the pain, but why was I still losing? Why was I about to be totally smashed down after all my hard work?

And then it happened. The punch that knocked my lights out. I gave everything I had and still fell short. I hit the ground in my prayer and I wasn’t moving. I lost.

My first thought? I wasn’t enough. 

My twenty seventh thought? That’s a lie, but I don’t understand why this is happening. 

I’ve been praying with this scene for a while. I’ve hated being angry at God. I’ve felt like such a hypocrite. Telling others that Jesus loved them, but not understanding why he was letting me be completely knocked out. 

Yesterday in prayer, I woke up. I was talking with Mother Teresa about suffering and she told me it was okay not to understand. Pain reminds us of our poverty. And our poverty reminds us we can do nothing without Him.  

I can do nothing without Him. 

The minute I stepped into that boxing ring alone, I had already lost. This whole time I had been so focused on sustaining myself. I had been so focused on my own strength, my own weakness, that I had no time to even entertain thoughts about the healing power of our Lord. HA. The truth is we aren’t strong enough to fight off the lies. GASP. That sounds shocking to say at a time in the culture where it’s weak to admit you can’t do something. But there is wisdom in understanding that we can’t do life alone. We were made for relationship.

 I didn’t need to prove myself to God. Unlike that boy in college, the Lord wanted to fight for me. He wants to fight for you. It is through Him that we are strong. It is through fighting to let Him fight for us that we win. 

Joan of Arc didn’t fight alone. Her strength was not her own, that’s what made her so captivating.

I needed to be knocked down. I needed to look at my poverty. I needed to learn to trust that someone else was fighting for me.

And this guy wins. He wins every time. 

Emily Martinez