In my previous post (see link at the end), I described my short time in a Costa Rican bullring with a live bull. The experience was a once-in-a-lifetime moment, an experience that was both frightening and exhilarating. I’ve told that story many times over the years, and listeners have always seemed to enjoy the narration. Each time I tell the story, though, I realize again and again that it’s more than just a funny tale. The story and its setting also serve as a metaphor of sorts for life.
The bullring in question was probably slightly bigger than the size of a major-league baseball infield. A four-foot high fence surrounded the ring, and ten yards of safe space separated the first wall from a higher second wall which supported the bleachers for the fans in attendance. So from a bird’s-eye view, the arena would look like a target with the large main ring in the center surrounded by a second thin ring surrounded by a larger third ring.
As I mentioned in the story, all the major activity takes place in the main ring, but that safe area between the bullring and the bleachers is so crucial to survival. Without that safe area, those in danger could not escape and might be injured or killed in the symbolic main arena, the arena where we live our daily lives.
Yes, after often thinking about my experience as a matador, I realize that we all enter the arena every day when we go off to work or to school or to another significant activity. During our time in the arena, we face either a bull who is out to get us, or we encounter others in that same arena who are also trying to survive with an every-man-for-himself mentality. Obviously, that arena can be a dangerous place.
Sometimes, too, in addition to the physical danger, we can face verbal criticism from those in the bleachers because we’re not doing what they expect, or we’re not doing it correctly. Fortunately, those in the bleachers do not really matter. Former President Teddy Roosevelt addressed their criticism in his “Man in the Arena” speech in 1910:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming.”
Fortunately, too, when necessary, we can leave the arena; we can hop over the wall to escape from the critics, from the bull, and from the others in the ring who may be a threat. We can retreat to a place of temporary safety where we can rest and recharge in preparation for the next day’s battle. In her 1984 song “The Warrior Is a Child,” Twila Paris describes it this way:
“They don’t know that I go running home when I fall down.
They don’t know who picks me up when no one is around.
I drop my sword and cry for just a while
’Cause deep inside this armor, The warrior is a child.”
the warrior is a child song youtube - Bing
Twila Paris - The Warrior Is a Child Lyrics. Lately I've been winning battles left and right But even winners can get…
Since my foolhardy entrance into that Costa Rican bullring, I, too, have faced difficult days, days of personal rejection, unemployment, sickness, and loss of loved ones, among others. When those blows hit me, I survived only because I retreated to my place of safety, a place occupied by my Savior, Jesus Christ, and my family.
Thus, when I pray for others during their difficult days, I pray not only that they win their battle and overcome their particular hardship or loss, but I also pray that they have a safe place with people who will love them and care for them during their trials. I pray, too, that they will come to know the God of the universe Who created them and Who has said this about them:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).