Updated: Jan 2, 2019
Several years ago, my wife and I took a date night and went to watch the movie Rocky Balboa. Our kids were young and even though I thought life was progressing well, there was a part of me that was unsettled. Even though I first saw this movie over thirteen years ago, the story within it hit me very deeply and has caused me to regularly reflect on how I am approaching life.
There was a very profound scene in the movie in which Rocky’s son came to him and practically begged him not to go back into the ring. Rocky, in his eloquence, proceeded to educate his son about the harshness of life, and that making excuses and putting blame on external things for his own lack of success and fulfillment was a copout.
He challenged his son with the following charge…
“Life ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done! Now, if you know what you're worth, then go out and get what you're worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits, and not point fingers saying you ain't where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain't you. You're better than that!”
This message transcends any one person.
The context of this scene is that Rocky has aged and is somewhere in his 50’s. His wife has passed away and his relationship with his son is not quite what he would like it to be. As he begins to soul search and contemplate the significance of his life, he realizes there is some unresolved dissonance that is holding him back. There is something he has pushed down so deep that he needs to face it in order to truly be free. He simply calls it, “the unfinished stuff in my basement.”
In this scene, Rocky is talking to himself as much as he is talking to his son. His message is for all men, and he helped me realize I had some “unfinished business” in my own basement.
Admittedly, I was faced with the reality that even though I desired success in my life, I had developed a habit of self-sabotage. In truth, I had no idea how to rightly think about success or even go about the right plan to achieve it. Therefore, I feared it!
My natural default was to judge people who were successful.
I had developed a false belief that all people of wealth were just lucky, and that very few of them had a strong work ethic. I was judgmental of anyone living in prosperity, and had convinced myself that the pursuit of financial abundance was an automatic pathway to some sort of corruption of the soul. Rooted in jealousy, I had convinced myself that people with money were those that Jesus would confront and say, “I never knew you.”
Sadly, I had also allowed my faith journey to become a crutch for this mindset. I had completely misconstrued and mis-contextualized passages like, “take up your cross” and “deny yourself.”
I was realizing I needed to step away from what the man at the pulpit was telling me, and dive into a personal encounter with the text myself. I needed to seek and understand on my own what God was really saying about abundance and prosperity.
I had to face the reality that much of my thinking, when it came to success, was flawed, full of B.S., and in need of an overhaul.
Around the time I first saw this movie, I had moved into a community with a very mixed bag of affluent people. I was observing that some in the community had indeed allowed money to corrupt their moral and spiritual judgment, but at the same time, I was also coming in contact with people whose financial abundance was doing more for the growth of God’s Kingdom than I had seen in any church I had been in. Their thinking was very different than mine, and they were some of the most loving, god-fearing, and gracious people I had ever met.
My bad theology was being challenged.
This experience has taught me a few things over the years, one of them being...
You can’t fix what you’re unwilling to confront:
Rocky knew that the freedom he sought could only be found on the other side of surrendering to a process greater than himself. He had to get back into the ring and be willing to take the punches that would deliver the answers to overcome his internal conflict.
The ancient Israelite king, David, has helped me understand this idea best through one of his personal journals. Most popularly known as Psalm 139, King David acknowledges the sovereign nature of God as the ultimate creator of all human beings.
However, the most powerful part of his journal entry is that he admits his hatred toward his enemies, and then has the boldness to ask God to search his heart, examine his mind, test his resolve, expose his wrong thinking, and then lead him through the process of making things right.
This is DANGEROUS, for two reasons:
1. If he doesn’t confront the tension he is aware of, the bitterness and resentment he is carrying will ultimately erode his soul. The King knows there is no freedom in unforgiveness, hatred, and anger. If he leaves his heart as is, it will only corrupt his ability to lead.
2. On the other hand, by admitting there is an issue, he knows God will actually deal with it. Actually dealing with the “stuff in the basement” is a deeply spiritual, emotional, and intellectual refining that is typically painful. However, when the process is complete, the freedom that is found on the other side is just that, freeing and empowering.
The King had a decision, and so de we!
Embrace the reality that you’re not the author of your personal being, but that you are the caretaker of your current existence.
Whether you are a believer in God or not, every human faces the same reality. Not one of us had anything to do with our personal being. We all seek the answer of how we got here, and many of us have landed on the foundation of faith... faith that there is a creator, that he is knowable, and that he will insert himself into our lives if we ask him to.
People of faith also believe they have been given human faculties to allow them the ability to become brilliant thinkers, big dreamers, unified collaborators, and innovative creators. They are to be Men of continual Growth, and take up the responsibility to THRIVE in their spiritual health, physical health, relational health, and yes, financial health.
If you are one of these men, I encourage you with the following as a means to keep the “stuff in your basement” always in good order, and to chase your dreams with a healthy view of who you were created to be...
PRAY: Pray for the right mindset and spiritual guidance to do the right things. Pray as David did, that God would examine your heart and lead you in the way everlasting. Pray for unity of Spirit with God, and for that Spirit to be the lens by which you navigate life. Pray for the fruits of His Spirit to manifest completely in your personality and behavior.
PREPARE: Prepare for what the LORD will allow you to go through, the opportunities he will bless you with, the personal requests he may say no to, and the calls to action he will expect you to say yes to.
PERSIST: Persist in the work it takes to continually grow, the trials you will encounter, and the life assignments you say yes to. In other words, don’t quit. There is power in being a man that can go through hard things and not fall apart.
PARTNER: Partner with the right people that will tell you the truth, walk through the storms with you, and encourage you to keep going.
I pray this article has brought value to you. I hope it provokes thought, engages discussion, and most of all, causes you to take action in an area of your life you know you need growth in.
God Speed, my friend.