The Ring

by Andy Wood on March 14, 2008

in Following Your Passion, LV Cycle

NinjaI had never seen a rank test before.  What I did see impressed me.  And taught me.  I know it’s dangerous to talk in layman’s terms about something you don’t fully understand, but I want to tell you what I saw.  (No, this picture wasn’t it.  I just thought the little fella looked cute.)

For those of you, like me, who have never taken a martial arts class, a rank test is a challenge a student must face in order to receive a higher-ranked belt.  White belts challenge for yellow, yellow belts challenge for blue, and so forth.  I walked in on a Monday night several years ago to what I assumed was a routine karate class, and found out my kid (age 8 at the time) was being tested.  What made it interesting was that he didn’t know it at the time.

Best I can tell, the rank test involved two different parts.  First, students had to demonstrate a thorough knowledge of what they had been taught.  The different moves and techniques were reviewed over and over under the watchful eye of the master.

Then came The Ring.  At least, that’s my name for it.  The Ring was a grueling experience.  Every student in the class – on this night about 15 – was spaced apart to make a square.  Each student facing the rank test had to fight the entire class.  One on one, he had to score two points (connect twice) on every member of the class, all the way around The Ring.  This no small chore, the challenger was then ordered into the center ring where he fought the teacher… then the teacher and another ominous, thug-looking guy.  He was pushed around, kicked around, and constantly challenged, right to the limits of his physical and emotional endurance.  The only help he received that didn’t come from within was a little encouragement from the class and the audience.

After he reached his limit in the middle, the challenger then had to go around The Ring again, then face the same hostilities in the center one more time.  In the end, the greatest opponent was not the master, or the fellow students.  The greatest opponent was the pain, the tears, the exhaustion, and the inner voice that screamed to the challenger, “Quit.  Now!”

That Monday night I watched six little boys make a giant step toward becoming men.  All but one left The Ring sobbing.  But they had pushed themselves far beyond what they ever thought they could do.  They had risen to the challenge.  They passed the test.  It was an incredible experience to watch.  And, it was pretty cool that one of them was my son.

RingTomorrow night he’ll step into a different Ring – the one he places on his wife’s hand, and the one he himself will wear.  This Ring signifies another round of challenges, another confrontation with his own limitations (and another opportunity for him to run away, sobbing like a girl.) But like the rank test, he and she will be sorrounded with a community of friends and family who witness something profound – the birth of a new home.  And they will cheer and encourage.  Biology says he’s a man now.  Over time, The Ring will prove whether that’s true or not.

Most of us are not karate students.  But those who are Christ’s students understand something about the rank test.  After all, you face it often, sometimes without realizing at the time it’s a test.  And it comes in two parts – the rigorous review of previous lessons, and The Ring.  Those who make up The Ring around you serve both as challengers and as encouragers.  At the same time, they knock you down and they cheer you on.  But your greatest challenge is the Master Teacher Himself and the limits of your own endurance.  He knows how much you can take.  But He also knows how far you can go.  And He insists that you go there, no matter how bad it hurts.

Following the test, there was a simple but impressive ceremony as belts were presented.  But that’s nothing compared to the celebration in Heaven when one of God’s kids – or one of God’s churches – passes the test.

There are only two kinds of Christians, and two kinds of churches… those who are in The Ring and those who make up The Ring.  At all times we are called either to stand and deliver or to challenge and cheer

It’s how boys become men. 

It’s how congregations become churches. 

It’s how the Kingdom survives for another generation.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Robin Wood March 16, 2008 at 11:20 pm

They are wearing those rings tonight, the test begin. I believe they will make it.

Ron@TheWisdomJournal March 17, 2008 at 6:37 pm

Very neat story. I love how you wove the story of two rings together.
Best wishes to your son and his wife.

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