Mel's Online Book Club Discussion: The Fight By Luke Wordley

Posted at 20:07pm on 11th September 2015

I had the pleasure of meeting with author, Luke Wordley, and received a signed copy of his book.  In choosing to read The Fight for Book Club, we felt we were moving outside our comfort zone.  It was with some surprise, therefore, that all our members enjoyed reading it.  Some said it was an easy read, which suited them at the end of a summer of visitors, one member said she found it much more ‘religious’ than she’d expected.

THE STORY

The story is about a young man, Sam, whose father has died and whose mother turns to drink.  Deprived of the close friendship he’d enjoyed with his dad, his anger grows when he and his mother have to leave the farm and are rehoused in a deprived area of London.  He takes his aggression out on all around him, and risks expulsion from school.

With divine intervention when a street brawl breaks out, Sam is led to a local boxing club run by Jerry.  Thus begins a friendship and mentoring that will lead, ultimately, to both having to ask searching questions about themselves.  And about their hopes and aspirations.

BOOK CLUB DISCUSSION

When it came to meeting together for our usual discussion, we were few in number, many readers having gone off on holiday.  That, however, was to our advantage, as we found ourselves sharing more deeply and personally than we would have done in a large group.

Using the discussion questions at the back of the book, we came up with the following answers.

THE SPECKS & PLANKS OF JUDGEMENT

Q:  Do you think a lack of knowledge about people influences how you feel about them?  What steps can you take to avoid judging people?

A:  The obvious answer, we felt, was to take the right steps to get to know them.   It prompted a further question, though, about the wisdom of wading in to the situations we might encounter in life, as Robbie, one of the characters in the book, did when he broke up the street brawl. 

This led to one reader recounting a story about an occasion when she had intervened in a public park.  Overhearing a man speaking to a child about the ‘the pleasure he’d had of seeing a little one rolling about in the grass’, she was convinced that this must be a case of the sexual abuse of a minor.  With a natural and commendable concern, she spoke to the man in question and threatened to report the matter to the authorities.  She then learned – to her embarrassment – that this was far from being a case of paedophilia.  What had happened was that he child in question had witnessed a squirrel rolling about in the grass!

We remembered, also, the testimony given by a man in our church, who had attempted to break up the violence between a man and his wife.  His compassion led to his own downfall, however.  Wounded and concussed, he ended up in a coma in hospital.  It’s true that as a result of his action he became a Christian, but his story suggests that we should think carefully before putting ourselves in danger.  As we were reminded, the two US marines who recently overcame a terrorist about to blow up a train in France, were professionals who were disciplined in carrying out such action.

SHOULD PERFECTION BE DEMANDED OF ROLE MODELS?

Q:  Should personal struggles or a crisis of faith, such as that suffered by Jerry, disqualify one from the role of mentor?

A:  We were unanimous in denouncing this as fatuous.  None of us is perfect, and no one can expect a life free of difficulties of some sort or another.  The struggles we experience enhance our ability to empathise with those going through similar trauma.  And as one person said, when endeavouring to help others we should focus on the person not the problem.

Far from prohibiting me from mentoring others, I’ve found that my struggles in life have done quite the reverse.  Marriage to a serial adulterer, divorce, single parenthood, and a heroin addicted daughter, had the effect of deepening my faith, and making my daily walk with God more meaningful.  I trained as a counsellor (in the days when accreditation was not compulsory) and shared what I’d learned with others.

And when I received my commissioning verse to comfort others with the comfort I, myself, had received, naturally, I turned to writing to fulfil it.  The Tug of Two Loves and Divorced But Not Defeated, were followed by Stepfamilies and Second Marriage, while Where is My Child? and A Painful Post Mortem told the story of my daughter’s life.  First to freedom from drugs and a fulfilled life.  And ultimately, to a suspicious death.  The letters I have received from around the world, informing me of the help my books have been to others, reinforce in me the idea that our life struggles may be the best equipment when it comes mentoring others – but only if we place ourselves in God’s hands and submit to his disciplines.

LEARNING DISCIPLINE & SELF-CONTROL

Q:  Is boxing, or martial arts, an appropriate activity for children – particularly Christians – to be encouraged to undertake?

A:  I confess to voicing an overwhelming ‘No’ in response to this.  And I was not alone.  The thought of any child learning to beat the living day lights of another, let alone one brought up to believe in the concept of turning the other cheek and loving our enemies, seems abhorrent.  However, as we discussed the idea, our thinking gradually changed.

To begin with, it was simply the idea that martial arts might be taught merely as an exercise regime or as self-defence.   The realisation that discipline would be a crucial part of such sport, helped me to see past my prejudice.  It wasn’t hard to understand that the natural frailties of youth – a sense of inferiority, the inability to know how to cope with emotional trauma, natural aggression, and the need to prove oneself – might all be harvested and brought into submission through the discipline of such sports.

‘After all,’ I said, ‘when we had conscription for National Service in the Forces, young men were given an outlet for their aggressions, while, at the same time, being taught to obey authority and learn self-control.’

All in all, we enjoyed Luke Wordley’s book, and the debates it stirred up in us.  With themes of learning self-discipline and self-control, it's the sort of book any of us would be happy to give to a son or grandson.

 

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