The Secret You Need from the Worst Karate Student

Hannah, Zack and MeYou feel like giving up. I know you do. You’re tempted because it’s all just too hard. There’s a secret you need to know, one I learned from the worst karate student in the class.

Earning a black belt was an impossible undertaking.

I was forty. Overweight. Out of shape. Prior to my initial karate classes, I’d canceled myself out of athletic endeavors. You know the story – uncoordinated, lacking, uninspired by physical pursuits; I lived in my head. Only for the love of Jesus and for the friendship of the black belt ladies attending my Bible study would I overcome my rejection of all things sweaty and attempt to move with intention.

Every step of the way, I stunk at it. This was no small thing. Previous to karate, I’d only pursued goals at which I excelled or in which I believed I could excel. For the first time in my life, I was last in my class. Every time.

When we had to learn a new block, punch, or kick, the instructors (sensei) would gather in the corner and whoever drew the short straw would have to try to teach the move to me. It became a saying among them, “That sensei is so good; he could probably get Lori to understand that move.”

In every single class, I quit, sometimes before I even stepped onto the mat. The quitting thought dogged me as we bowed into class, warmed up, ran drills, learned new material, sparred, and even during promotions to the next belt. Pursuing a black belt was an extreme risk, it was stretching, humiliating, challenging, and exhausting.

Still, after four years, I floundered, failed, quit, and unquit my way into earning my first degree black belt. 

You may think I use hyperbole here to describe how pathetic I was but believe me, I’m underselling it. Sometime mid-pursuit, I wrote an essay for the local newspapers about getting up off the chair and moving my sorry butt onto the karate floor. It inspired others because, as they put it, “if that lady can do this, there’s no reason why I can’t.” (yeah, I was THAT student)

Before karate, I thought I was something. Smart, Christian, educated, accomplished. Before karate though, I’d never risked failing, looking stupid, or being bad at something. I’d never been truly tested. Through being the worst student, I learned the powerful secret you need today.

One prevailing attitude among those who had already earned their belts was key to my success and it was this: they all believed I would one day reach the goal.

They were realistic. I mean, seriously, they could see what I was made of and it wasn’t great material. But, they never allowed me to entertain the notion that I wouldn’t reach the goal. Sure, it might take longer than anyone had ever taken. I might have to test and retest. I might be the oldest woman on earth to earn a black belt but they were certain that one day, I would make it as long as I didn’t give up.

Their belief became my belief. Even in my weakest, whiniest moments, I believed that if I persevered, I would make it. This is a prevailing encouragement of scripture for followers of Jesus. Repeatedly God assures that you will receive what is promised, if you just don’t give up.

Galatians 6:9 says “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”(ESV)

Romans 14:4 says, “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” (ESV)

And Hebrews 10: 35-39 “Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” (ESV)

Do you hear the confident voice of the Holy Spirit in those verses? He’s saying to all of us following Jesus that He knows the end of our story. We make it.

It may be pretty ugly. We’ll straggle in or He’ll be dragging our sorry behinds across the finish line for us but we make it. If we don’t give up. The message of the cross is this – Jesus did the work; we just have to hold on. And we will hold on because He will make us able to hold on.

You’re worn out. Life is hard – demanding – impossible. You’ve failed – again. You want to quit. You’ve given up and given up and given up. Remember this. I was the worst karate student in that class but on the night I performed before a full auditorium and walked up to receive my black belt, the place thundered with cheers. Not because I was an amazing martial artist but because they knew I’d hung on and here I was standing beside the best.

All I did was not give up.

We all fail at this Christian life. It’s no secret. That’s why Jesus came because we were destined to flub up. We are the worst students in God’s class but if we follow Jesus, we make it to the goal.

Even if you’re the worst Christian, the heavens will erupt with celebration when you cross the line, too, loved one. They’ll cheer the amazing work of Jesus and they’ll celebrate because He made you able to hold on.

You, loved one, you’re going to shine. This, I know. So, hold on. Just hold on. Take it from the worst student – with a black belt.

Learn more about what I’m bad at but still attempt on my Jesus Lover page – be encouraged, loved ones. If we follow Jesus, we all make it home.

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    The Conversation

  1. Wanda says:

    As a teacher I know that kid, the slow one, the one that just cant seem to keep up, but perseveres anyway. More importantly, I have been that kid! Some days I feel like giving up, but I know that my God will be at the finish line to celebrate with me! We will make it!

  2. Maxine D says:

    Thank you thank you thank you for the encouragement!