Wrestling For Light
Fighting random strangers and getting a new name
My dear readers — there are few stories or essays more personal than this one. I just wanted to pause to reflect, and thank you for joining me on this journey. This “stack” was created as a place for me to write specifically for reluctant leaders who deal with very real challenges and tensions in their lives. They’re tired of what David Senra () has succinctly called “blog posts disguised as books.” I want to write what’s real. And so, you have my most personal essay I’ve ever released. Enjoy.
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The fight happened in a small room.
I’d been knocked to the floor, wrestled for a moment, and was now pinned flat on my back. The weight on my chest began to suffocate me, so I tried to throw my hips forward in a vain attempt to throw off my opponent.
As I heaved and twisted, I heard a POP!!
Pain erupted in my left side.
“Oh nice, I guess you get free chiropractic work today,” said the guy pinning me to the ground.
That was my last Jiu Jitsu class.
Within 24 hours I could barely move. I had to shuffle and crouch to make my way into my doctor's office. As I had climbed into bed the night before, my wife had run into the bedroom as I screamed out in pain when the “POP!” had shifted into a “CRACK!”
I couldn't sleep.
I shuffled back out of the doctor’s office that day with powerful pain medications in my hand.
As soon as they handed me the pills, a war of words began to rage in my mind. Two voices attempting to shout at me: “this is what you need to fix this pain!” echoed while I heard an even louder refrain “Tim, you’ll get addicted to these pills and ruin your life!”
Yes, my mind went extreme. I was unaware, but the darkness of fear had slipped into the crevices of my mind.
Before my injury, I had been intensely dedicated for months to my overall health. Wrestling random people in a Jiu Jitsu class had accelerated needed weight loss, boosted my energy, and improved my overall physique.
It wasn’t just my health that was thriving. I was driving to class in a brand new, fully loaded vehicle after having worked at my record-breaking business. Then I’d drive home to my family and a brand new home.
My life felt incredible. Until it didn’t.
After the crack of the rib, the dark force of fear wrapped its arm around my neck, pulled tight, and started squeezing the life out of me. I couldn’t tap out of this fight.
I had witnessed a few students get choked out in class and fall unconscious for a brief moment (always accidentally of course). One time I had vision fade and my eyes fill with glitters of stars, while I frantically tapped my partner to set me free.
This feeling in my mind was much the same, but when I cried out for relief and attempted to “tap out,” nothing changed.
Over the following weeks the darkness grew. I stepped on the scale and gasped in shock at the numbers I saw below me. An aggressive text message popped up on my phone one morning, and my heart raced and my throat tightened. Everything in the brand new home started to break and cost far more than we ever thought.
I gathered up more doubts and fears in my mind. Winter was coming, and the darkness outside perfectly reflected my soul.
Weeks went by, but the pain remained. Every breath I took hurt, and I refused to take the pain pills. I laid in my bed, and I suffered. Fear had all but taken over.
I found myself one afternoon in the corner of my bedroom, huddled and shaking while I battled the darkest thoughts of my life:
“You aren’t worth living.”
The light I had in me was fading, being choked out slowly and methodically.
And all I could do was cry out in the darkness as I wrestled with my heart and my mind.
God, please save me.
A Wispy Beam
My cracked rib seemed to reveal an inner darkness I hadn’t noticed before, with deception and fear quickly filling the crevices of my heart and mind. It was dark for a very long time. But then the light began to float in, one wispy beam at a time.
First, the physical healing process took over a year. I was battered, bruised, and more unhealthy than before the injury. For months, I was pinned down in that dark room, unwilling to leave my bed and remaining in the darkness. But like the sun slipping through my curtains, I saw a moment to escape, and I shifted out of bed.
I had a close friend tell me during that time, “Tim, just go walk.” So I did. Slowly and infrequently at first, but each small decision like walking down my new street led to a better outcome. I went from unable to get out of bed until noon to waking up at 5:30 AM each morning to head to the gym.
I spoke to my doctor about how I was grappling with my mind, and shared how I was terrified of the dark thoughts I’d never had before in my life. We came up with a plan. My positive thoughts were being tapped out immediately in those days. So I went and spoke with someone weekly to share and contend with the fears and darkness in my mind. It was a long journey, but I went from dark thoughts to healthy daily meditation and intentional breathing exercises.
Spiritually — this is where it all truly changed. I finally opened up the Bible and read again the story of Jacob.
Jacob had found himself likely to be killed by his greatest enemy: his own twin brother. In desperation, he cried out to the heavens “Save me, please!”
Instead of a glorious and miraculous intervention as we often read in the Bible, he wrestles a man until daybreak.
Deep into the darkness of the night, Jacob refuses to yield as they scrap, toss, and tackle.
By the end of his grappling with this unknown adversary, his hip is knocked out of joint and he walks away with a limp. He realizes this is no ordinary man — this is something and someone beyond his earthly comprehension, a physical manifestation of a spiritual reality.
He is given a fascinating new name by his otherworldly opponent: God-Wrestler. He had contended with God and prevailed.
His original name “Jacob” meant “Deceiver.” He had lived and breathed his life in fear and darkness. But as the sun rose that morning, he was given a new name. As the sun rose above the horizon, the warmth of that Light had shone upon him and made clear who he truly was. Jacob could move forward without fear, confident in the truth and light of who he was in the eyes of his Creator.
I thought my own “wrestling” had concluded with my broken rib. But in the days and weeks I spent in the darkness, I found myself also wrestling with an unknown adversary. My original name — it was Fear. In my pain, I believed that I was not worth living. I grasped, strained, clawed, and fought.
But finally I relented. I wasn’t going to fight anymore.
Like a dream, I could see Him as He stood in front of me. He reached out both his arms, and placed them on my shoulders. My eyes were downcast, but I heard His words.
I love you.
I knew it was not just the “you” that I hoped or wished to be. It was all of me that was right there, in all my darkness, pain, and striving.
Before I had drawn a breath, I had been loved and known from the depths of eternity. Even in my wrestling, the Light of life was there all that time.
The Light was there as I cracked my rib. The Light was there when I fell into the depths of darkness. The Light was there even when I couldn’t see it, but it broke in first as a wisp, then as a sunrise, then the glorious blaze of the sun.
I had wrestled in the darkness until the light of the dawn — and I awoke with a new name: I was Loved.
So thankful for the feedback and kindness of the team that helped create this work: