Lessons from the Karate Kid

By Donna McBride

When my boys were young they loved the movie "The Karate Kid". It was the story of Daniel, a teenaged boy determined to learn the art of karate in order to prove himself to the new and threatening crowd at school. The boy finds himself a Master teacher, or rather the Master finds him, and together they enter into an agreement to prepare for a karate competition. The Master promises to teach Daniel on the condition that he does whatever is asked of him - with no questions asked.

While my boys loved the movie for its action scenes and ultimate victory for the underdog, it contains profound lessons for any of us who desire to pursue a God-given dream.

In the movie, Daniel arrives at the Master's house early in the morning to begin his karate training. To his surprise, the Master tells him to wash and wax every vehicle in the back yard - no less than eight from what Daniel could see. Confused but committed to following the Master's instructions, the boy starts working. Before long the Master intervenes and insists that Daniel "wax on" and "wax off" using very defined movements. Once the Master is satisfied that Daniel is using the proper technique, he leaves him to his work, which continues late into the night. The Master then dismisses the boy with no explanation, no apology and no assurance that tomorrow will better meet the boy's expectations.

For the next two days Daniel returns to the Master's house expecting his karate training to begin, but each morning he is delegated another tedious and confusing chore. Each morning the Master ensures that Daniel is using the proper techniques for his tasks, then leaves him to his work and is not seen again until he dismisses Daniel late each night.

Finally the boy can't take any more and confronts his Master with charges of indifference. In the emotion that ensues, a physical challenge begins between the two and the boy discovers that the techniques he has learned over the last three days are actually karate movements.

The epiphany comes when the boy realizes that his Master knew what he was doing all along. "Wax on" and "wax off" held secrets to Daniel's success that he did not see while he was engaged in seemingly meaningless tasks.

How many of us, on our spiritual journey, experience similar frustrations as the Karate Kid? We may have a general understanding of where God is leading us in life. Many of us also think we know the shortest, most direct path to that destination. Yet the reality of our lives may seem to have little connection to that destination.

God knows far better than we the plans He has for us, and the condition of our hearts. He is committed to reconciling those two things in our lives. At times, His ways are beyond our comprehension, and our intellects have trouble accepting by faith that which we cannot reason through logic.

The Karate Kid could not see the purpose in what his Master was asking him to do and I have to admit that as an onlooker I never saw the connection at first either. What could "wax on" and "wax off" have to do with preparing for a karate competition? But the Master did promise to teach the boy, and the boy did agree to do whatever was asked of him. He trusted his Master and because of that, he reached his desired goal.

Oswald Chambers teaches that obedience to God is the most important characteristic we can bring to a loving relationship with God, because obedience will lead to understanding. Too often, we insist on understanding before we are willing to follow God.

Faith means choosing to obey God despite our lack of understanding. If God were to show us how He would prepare our hearts for His purposes, most of us would not accept the training.

I know I would not have. If God had told me that He was going to give me a physically disabled son to temper my fiercely independent nature, I would have questioned His sanity. If He told me that He was going to remove me from serving others until I realized how much my boys and I needed each other, I would have been as bewildered as Martha when Jesus told her that her sister Mary had made a better choice.

If God had shown me all the things I was clinging to for security and self-esteem that I would need to surrender, I know I would have turned and walked away.

I'm thankful that God didn't give me what I wanted - He gave me what I needed. I am better person for it, and the people around me have also benefited. That lesson gives me confidence for the future. I have learned to look for the purpose in everything God brings my way. Sometimes I find it, sometimes I don't. My trusting obedience, not my intellectual understanding, is what forms the character of Christ in me.

Never underestimate the purpose of the work and responsibilities God has given you today. It might be difficult to understand the connection between raising a family and the dreams in your heart for the future, but God knows. It might be hard to understand the connection between living a monotonous life and a transformed character, but God knows. It might be hard to understand the connection between years of unrecognized service and someday hearing the words "Well done my good and faithful servant", but God knows.

Trust the Master. Your obedience will bring understanding. "Wax on" and "wax off".

Donna McBride is a freelance writer from Calgary, Alberta. Donna has 3 grown sons and a background in business, counseling and teaching. E-mail: donnamcbride@shaw.ca

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