The Karate Kid was my sick day movie. If I ever wound up staying home from school because of illness, I almost always watched it. The choice was obvious between popping in the Karate Kid VHS or having to watch Little House on the Prairie reruns, which seemed to always be on. As a kid, my favorite scene was, of course, the championship fight at the end. You know, the music building to a crescendo, the crowd cheering. Daniel comes back after it seemed that his Cobra Kai induced knee injury was going to leave him down for the count. “Sweep the leg.” “Get him a body bag.” Daniel goes into crane-kick formation, kicks Johnny in the face, and is carried off the mat by a throng of cheering fans, calling out triumphantly, “We did it Mr. Miyagi!” Miyagi looks on with an approving smile. Fade to black. It’s cinematic genius.

I still love the ending, but I have a new favorite scene. The quick background is that Mr. Miyagi had agreed to teach Daniel karate, but up to this point in the film, all we have seen Mr. Miyagi do is burden Daniel with home improvement tasks: wax the cars, sand the floor, and paint the fence. After having spent his day painting Mr. Miyagi’s house, Daniel is fed up, and angrily demands that Miyagi begin teaching him karate or he’s walking. That’s when Mr. Miyagi connects the dots for young Daniel-san:

Again, cinematic genius. And what a teacher! Daniel, without ever knowing it, had been trained to be a lean, mean, crane-kicking machine… and Miyagi had spruced up his house for free!

I’ve thought about that scene a lot, which is somewhat strange, but I think we have all felt like Daniel and angrily wondered what all of the everyday, mundane, frustrating, and difficult times in life are for. When is the real training going start? When am I going to learn how to fight? I often long for times of great growth – concentrated times of training and learning and growing. And those times certainly come and are certainly helpful. But it would seem that God, in his great wisdom as a master teacher, has chosen to train us through the everyday tasks of life that we often grow to hate – wax the cars, paint the fence, sand the floor, paint the house, go to work, watch the kids, clean the house, visit family, unclog the drain, get the oil changed, make dinner, do the dishes, and so on. If these things are superfluous and simply fodder for frustration, than 95% of life is fruitless activity!

But they are not fruitless. In them God is training us and shaping us and molding us into his image, not just in the times we are blessed to spend with him in his word or even in formal study, but in all the stuff of life that we wish we could be done with. Where else could we walk with him and learn patience, love, mercy, and so many other fruits of the Spirit? And it is as we learn these every moment lessons, as we train our spiritual muscles in the midst of life, that God prepares us for the greatest fights of life. Unless we fully engage in the everyday, mundane, frustrating, and difficult times God gives us, we will never be prepared for the moments of great trial and triumph that God places before us.

And even if we never experience a “crane-kick-for-the-win” moment in our lives, we can take comfort in looking to the glory to come:

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:16-18)

May God grant us grace to not despise the things of life that are so easy to despise, but to embrace them as gifts from the sovereign hand of the Master Teacher, who is always training us and purifying us for the sake of his glory.

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