Man in the Stands


When you’re wrestling with life, it’s good to know you’ve got someone else working hard for you.

When I was a junior in high school, I was wrestling in a state tournament against an opponent that I had previously defeated twice during the year. As we met at the center of the mat with the referee before the match, my rival looked at me and said, “Today is my day, Pinegar.” I assured him that it was not, that I had already beaten him twice during the year, and this would be the third time.

As the match began, we circled each other and then clashed. We wrestled very, very hard. He was serious about wanting to defeat me, and in fact was so serious that he turned me every way but loose. As I would go down to the mat with him, I realized I had mat burns all over my body.

In the third round, he had me in a position where my head was twisted in the three-quarter Nelson, and he had a leg hold on me. I realized if I moved any farther he would pin me. At that moment, I looked into the crowd, and several rows into the bleachers I saw a very large man, probably six feet, five inches tall and about 280 pounds. From the expression on his face, it looked like he was trying to help me. So I watched him for just that brief second, and I realized that if he was trying to help me the two of us could surely defeat this fellow who was about to pin me.

I don’t know if it was because of that, but almost immediately after I had turned my face away from him I noticed my opponent had slipped his right arm over a little bit too far. If I could hook his elbow, I could reverse the hold and pin him instead of being pinned. Without hesitating I quickly pulled on his elbow. Over he went and I had him pinned.

Following my win, I was anxious to let the man know I appreciated his help. As I stood waiting for the referee to raise my hand, I looked around to see if I could find the man. In the same place I had seen him before I saw him standing very straight with a satisfied, if not proud, look on his face. He looked at me and smiled. I guess I can confess that this man was my father.

As I learned during my wrestling experience to look for help from my father, in life I have learned that when trials seem so difficult, when a challenge is so great that we see no way out, and when we feel we’re about to lose our “match,” that is the moment to look to our Heavenly Father. As we do, we will discover that he is working as hard as he can for our success. Realizing this will bring us strength and courage. If we act on that courage we will discover a way has been provided by him for us to overcome the difficulty or temptation we have faced.

Our Heavenly Father is always there, waiting for the opportunity to give us his encouragement and even extend to us his power. He may not remove the challenge from us, but he will provide the strength and the opportunity for us to come out the victor.

[illustration] Illustrated by Paul Mann