“Ready, go!” were the only words I heard, and then it was over. The year was 1980, and I was competing at a Canadian Arm-wrestling Tournament on a friend’s offer to pay my entry fee. Though this was only my first victory, it propelled the course of my life—one I never could have imagined. In fact, while competing in Western Canada, a 24 year-old man 3,000 miles way in Los Angeles, California was competing in and winning his 2nd world arm-wrestling championship. I didn’t realize then that our paths would eventually cross and serve a greater purpose.
Two Paths Become One
As an amateur arm-wrestler, I was slated to compete in the Canadian/American Championships. Little did I know that my time spent in Bible College playfully arm-wrestling young men who challenged me to duels proved to be an integral part of my training for this tournament.
After a bus ride that landed me in the wrong city and a flight attendant that risked his job getting me on the flight the following day, I almost missed the women’s division of the competition. The distractions left me shaken and unable to focus, so my team captain suggested I speak with a young man on the American team. I vaguely remember meeting him once before, but something was different. The connection between us was immediate and undeniable.
Although Allen was a man with a rebellious past that consisted of drugs, alcohol, and promiscuity, he was arrested by God and one night before an evening of heavy partying, Allen’s heart was convicted by the Holy Spirit. He surrendered to God and his life began to change.
Allen soon found out that a life serving Christ is not without tests of faith. As he continued to dominate the arm-wrestling competitions, the sport’s demands clashed with his personal convictions. For example, Allen believed Sundays should be kept holy and refused to compete on this day. God honored Allen’s faithfulness and blessed him with an extremely successful career marked by 26 world titles and hundreds of national and international titles. He was even featured in a movie with Sylvester Stallone.
Wrestling a Hardened Heart
Our first year of marriage was a nightmare. Two headstrong world champion arm-wrestlers seeking to create a life together proved to be our toughest challenge of all! Within the first fifteen years of marriage, Allen and I endured two painful miscarriages, years of heartache caused by an abusive church, many struggles from homeschooling two children, and the heavy burden of tremendous debt.
I can’t do this anymore, I thought. I wanted to quit, walk away. I had no idea where I would go or who could help me. I just wanted the exhaustion, bitterness, and pain to end.
“Even if you leave, Carolyn, I will never divorce you,” Allen promised. His words were constant reminders to fight for our relationship, to be champions in marriage and not just on the arm-wrestling table. One grim morning, I finally collapsed to the floor and cried out to God, asking Him to change me and work in our marriage. I didn’t want to keep pretending to be a devoted Christian on the outside, while my heart and actions remained unforgiving and judgmental.
As Allen and I prayed together, read books together, and sought to keep the humor in our relationship, God gradually began to chip away at our competitive hearts. He began to transform our relationship with each other and with Himself.
In the Strong Arms of Jesus
Allen continues to make an impact in the world of arm-wrestling, both as a competitor and as a mentor. I recently retired from a thirty-year career of professional arm-wrestling marked by five world championship titles and numerous national and international tiles. However, I still attend competitions and enjoy coaching, as well as sharing the grace of God with the people we meet.
As the only husband and wife world champion team in the history of arm-wrestling, Allen and I are grateful for God’s providence and the way He has orchestrated our lives. We have been blessed with endurance, determination, and two sets of very strong arms—but it is in the arms of Jesus that we are truly safe and strong, for He never fails us.
How about You?
Have you relied on your personal strength to navigate the challenges in your life? You may be physically strong, but only God can carry you through your struggles, for He promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5b). It takes only a few seconds to surrender or return to Him, but the rewards are endless. If you are ready, you can yield to Him right now with a prayer like this:
Dear God, I don’t want to be rebellious against You anymore or rely on my own strength. I put my trust in You and your saving work for me: the Lord Jesus on the cross. I want a restored relationship with you. I believe that when Jesus died for my sins and rose after three days, He conquered sin and death. I surrender my heart and my life to You. Show me your perfect will for my life so that I can use my strength to praise and glorify You! Amen.
This important decision to trust in Jesus will be the beginning of true strength and power, as you become a true champion in His kingdom! “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Carolyn and Allen Fisher live in San Diego, California. Their passion is to help others discover their true strength in Jesus Christ through their ministry, Arming Champions.