That is the hardest thing you have done so far this year? Perhaps, it was working out so that you could reach your New Years goals! Or perhaps, it was working on your relationship goals within your family. Whatever it is or was, I'm sure that the struggle had a payoff that made the sacrifice worth it in the end.

For me, on February 7, 2024, @ 6AM in the morning at Connection Rio Jiu Jitsu Academy I tested for my blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Hard is not the word I would use to describe that hour and fifteen minutes of class that morning. Brutal is more like it! My test consisted of three different parts. The first part was the technique demonstration.

As a blue belt in BJJ, one must show proficiency in certain positions from standing to when you're on your back and when you're on top of a resistant opponent. My nerves were high as I demonstrated my technical proficiency before the entire class. The second part of my blue belt test was three take-downs abasing a striking opponent.

During this part of my test, I had three opponents with boxing gloves come after me to simulate a fight! My goal was to neutralize the threat by closing the gap between their ability to strike me and my ability to take their body to the ground. That was a very hard part of the test. My gas tank was running on empty! But it was the final part of the test that made me wonder if I was going to survive this experience.

The final part of the test was sparring with whoever the professor sent my way. It was 25 minutes of pure brutal fighting for my survival. When the time went off, and the class period was over . . . so was I! I had finished my test. I had completed all that was asked of me. I had defended myself from an attacking opponent. I had survived the sparring matches.

I was then, after all my sacrifice, awarded the Brazilian Jiu its Blue Belt. Something only 10% of practitioners receive! So far, that was the hardest thing I've had to do this year. Bt this does not compare to the difficulty of loving your enemies! Today, you will hear a sermonic thought from our WWU Theology students that will help us find ways to love those we see as our enemies. We have to figure this out. By God's grace, we will!