When I grew up, professional wrestling was not what it is today. There didn’t seem to be so much money involved, and the wrestlers were not quite so impressive physically, especially in their speedos and wrestling shoes. Even their names seemed a bit more benign. I remember “Rowdy Roddy” Piper, “The British Bulldog” and “The Bushwackers,” a comical pair of brothers from Australia (shown in the photo).
I liked the tag-team competitions. They seemed to have the most interesting combinations of wrestlers, and it seemed like the matches were more often between two good teams, rather than involving a clear winner and another wrestler with cheap costumes, bad hair, and flabby physiques (although there was plenty of that in tag teams). The rule for tag team was that only one wrestler for each team could be on the mat at one time. The one not on the mat had to wait in his respective corner until the one on the mat “tagged” his teammate so that he could come back in.
Often I think I take on the part of the spectator or fan, wincing at the pain of “my wrestler”, hoping and praying that “my wrestler” will win, and even cheering him on. Recently I’ve had a few experiences that have caused me to question my assumptions. First, I’ve felt like I’ve been being beat up in the ring, thinking that I must be a bad wrestler, only to realize that it would have helped to have a team. More worryingly, I’ve been on the other side of the rope and suddenly realized that I’m not only authorized to help, but that wrestler in the ring is my team mate, and may not actually know how to tag me. Rather than wait passively in the corner for my teammate to come all the way to me, I need to stretch as far as I can, and sometimes even jump into the ring to help.
There are so many reasons to feel that we are in the audience, and not actually on the team slated for the mat. The legitimate reasons to not go to the mat are many. First, we don’t want to make our wrestler feel like he is doing a bad job. Second, we want him to learn and to grow for himself because helping too much may make him weak. Third, these wrestling matches are going on all around us, and it’s just physically impossible to “get involved” with the difficulties of everyone for whom we care. But there are also reasons that are more about us than about the wrestler in the ring. For example, reaching in to help can be observed by others. Our attempt to help may be misinterpreted, not just by Ricky, but also by others. Thus, we open ourselves to criticism. We can more easily protect ourselves, not only from the battle within the ring, but the judgment of the crowd outside of the ring, if we are cautious. Finally, it simply takes time and we have a lot of other things to do.
Not every struggle is like a tag team match. On the other hand, not every struggle is an individual match either. Some situations are clearer than others. Knowing the difference on the margin requires judgment, and I guess I’m developing that (slowly). But I think that I’ve made the resolution that I think I’d rather be the type of person that errs on the side of jumping in to tag my teammate too often, than the kind that errs on waiting outside the ring too often. I think that more of us are the "least of these" (Matt 25:40) than we may think.