UJA Grapevine title with grape bunch

I’m not a boxer. I have, however, laced up some gloves and thrown a few punches in my opponent’s direction. My 7th and 8th grade teacher, Mr. Teal, purchased a set of gloves and began to teach us boys how to box during our recess time. We loved it!

Mr. Teal tried to teach us how to jab, block, and punch, then he would let us go at each other. He would yell instructions at each combatant while each of us would try to land blows upon the head of the other. “Keep moving! Jab, jab! Keep your guard up! Keep your eyes open!”

After about a week a new piece of equipment was required for participation. We all had to get a mouthpiece. I think my chipped front tooth had something to do with this new requirement. Every once in a while Mr. Teal would lace up his gloves and box with us. We loved this. Mr. Teal was well over 6 ft., young, fit and very athletic. 

While we tried to land some blows he would alternately encourage us, give instructions and throw in some trash talking with a few soft blows of his own. I remember one day lacing up the gloves with Mr. Teal before school started. I was dancing around giving my best Ali impression, trying to land a few blows while trying to avoid his. Then it happened. Mr. Teal was about to throw a punch. I thought I knew where it was coming from, so I closed my eyes, let my guard down and ducked. At that same instant my teacher threw a gentle uppercut. I ducked right into it. My arms swung down like noodles, my legs turned to jello, and I began to crumple to the floor. Mr. Teal caught me and held me up while the stars cleared from my head. It was the last time I laced up a pair of gloves (that, and my chipped tooth put an end to my boxing). Shortly after that the gloves were put away and never seen again (I think the principal put a stop to it). We all now fight a different kind of boxing match. We also need to keep our eyes open and our guard up. Reality is under attack. Blow after blow, jab after jab is wearing us down. We get punch drunk and everything gets turned around. Up is down and down is up. Right is wrong and wrong is right. Or is there even a right or wrong? We are bombarded with information to the point of dizziness. It is so much easier to let our guard down, close our eyes and let it soak in without any filtering, thinking that it has no effect. Then we change without even realizing it.

How do we teach our children, or ourselves, to keep their eyes open and their guard up when it comes to modern media? First of all, I think we need to be their filter. While we can control much of what they are exposed to, we can’t control it all and we can’t do it forever. They will grow up and will have to learn how to manage media on their own. As they grow up, how do we teach them to deal effectively with modern media?

We can’t stop all the media messages, so we must not be silent! Keep your brain turned on and talk back to messages you get from the radio/TV/video, book, billboard, computer game system, or smartphone. It will drive them crazy, but it will hopefully get them to think about what is going into their minds. Be an example yourself. Self filter and be very selective about what you let into your mind. Pray for wisdom and pray some more. This is a boxing match we cannot win on our own. We need God to fight with us and for us.

Years ago, our youngest boy started taking Karate. He loved it! I was fascinated as the instructor tried to teach them to avoid and parry blows. So many of these little ones, like me, would close their eyes, drop their guard and duck. Over and over again he would tell them to keep their guard up and their eyes on him. Eventually they would get it right. They might forget again next time, but he was persistent until they really got it for good.

I pray we can be as persistent. I’d love for my students to learn to keep their eyes open and their guard up as well.

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard . . . “

Matthew 10:16-17

God bless,

Rick Nelson