Jab, Cross, Hook

The smell of dust and sweat and leather fills the room. Punching bags hang in precise rows, immovable in the presence of industrial fans and re-mixed 90s hip hop. “I’m gonna knock you out; Momma said knock you out!” I slowly wrap my hands and wrists, weaving the fabric between each finger, stabilizing each moving part before I slip on my gloves.

I took up boxing to work out my complicated feelings about my weight and being strong. What I quickly realized is that I have found a physical space to work out my complicated feelings of heaviness and powerlessness.

Jab, cross, hook, hook. Lead upper cut, rear uppercut. Hook!

I am in all my Enneagram 8 glory, pivoting my hip to slam my glove into the dense bag. I move to the sounds of our instructor and rap artists who now have clothing lines and cooking shows. It is hard; it is fast. I try hard to focus on breathing and form.

Inside me, however, inside is different. I had hoped all the places where life had slammed into me would hit density. Precise and immovable. Instead, they hit soft, tender places that shake at both slight and exact blows. I am angry these places exist. I struggle to breathe. I tighten my glove straps.

Jab, cross, weave, strike! Hook!

And still I feel like crying. The liquid anguish I feel in my heart manifests itself in the sweat and spit on my gloves. I am boxing myself. This Gethsemane experience is bearing witness to the sparring. Why did I respond the way I did to that racist experience? Why do I feel so small in some rooms? Why is my voice ignored? Why am I so tired? I am so tired.

I peek at the clock. Only ten minutes have gone by. I lean my forehead against the bag and tell myself it is okay to slow down, not to punch as hard. The bell strikes for another round, but I don’t give myself a break.

Punches for speed…roll your shoulders…upper cut, upper cut. Hook!

I don’t need the answers to come. I need the anger to move. I lean into the bag and roll my shoulder back. Punches for speed, roll your shoulders. My foot twists, my hip pivots, my waist drives an exacting arm into the bag with force. Speed and force come together, and clarity comes: I am designed. The poor and the powerful that are moving cautiously around this bag, waiting to throw a punch.

Because I am designed, all of me is seen. And it is good.

My God sees my sweat. He’s not anxious because of my tears. He’s okay with my force. He’s not scared of my power.

Okay, folks. Punches for power…slow it down. Strike as hard as you can!

Hook! I do not have to solve the evils of racism in every situation. That is exhausting.

Hook! I do not have to placate every room, begging for a voice. I can switch rooms.

Hook! God did not give me a rat race to run or a hamster wheel to die on. I have purpose, and there is power in my purpose.

Hook! Exhaustion is not the mark of saints. It is not an earnable stigma.

“Palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy.” A prophetic voice blares from the speakers. Truth, truth. My body feels like it is going to die. But my spirit, ah, my spirit! It feels so alive!

Eliza Cortes Bast is a fierce and honest follower of Jesus. She is a pastor, and denominational executive, dedicated to helping churches think missionally. She lives into her passion by connecting people, advocating for the community, and helping organizations think strategically so they can be healthy, vibrant, and sustainable. Eliza lives in Michigan with her patient and handsome husband EJ, and their two boys. Her loves include her home country Puerto Rico, her interracial marriage, a good steak, salsa dancing, writing, empowering emerging leaders, making the impossible possible, Diet Coke, and mentoring. She is not a big fan of anger without action, generalizations, basketball, and saying you can’t live without coffee. She believes you can, because she believes in you.