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Fighting for a Chance

FINDING YOUR VOICE
with Joel Boggess

“Fighting For a Chance” with Jonathan Spinks

Podcast #94, January 28, 2012

Link to podcast

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>> JOEL: Hi.  It’s me Joel and you’re listening to “Finding Your Voice.”  And joining us on the show today is a man who has known victory, at least victory by the world’s standards.  In his professional fighting career, he not only went 8 ½ years without losing a fight, but all of his wins, his professional wins, came by way of knockout.
Jonathan, I’m sure we could go on for several shows talking about your greatest hits, so to speak, and some of your best memories from the ring.  But if it’s okay with you, I’d like to talk about the Jonathan Spinks behind the fighter.  I liked to talk about the Jonathan Spinks that was there after the fans and after the reporters went home.
Now right before the show, you said —  you were telling me a story about how you were winning in the ring but at the same time you were losing a bigger fight.  You were losing a fight in life.  So, pick up with that and help me understand, please.
>> JONATHAN: Well, that’s exactly right, Joel.  And thanks for having me on the show today.  I’m really excited about being here.
>> JOEL: Yes.
>> JONATHAN: But, yeah, that’s the thing.  You know, fighting just engulfed my life.  I started when I was 13.  I fought my whole life growing up.  And it’s kind of odd to look back now and see one of the main reasons why I started fighting.  I had a Marine Corps father that was pretty brutal, pretty mean.  And it seemed like I grew up in kind of a boot camp atmosphere and so many times we think as parents – you know, I’m a parent now.  I have a 6 year old and 4 year old at home.
So many times we don’t — I think parents don’t realize how they influence the child at a very young age because I would’ve sworn that I was not influenced in regards to boxing or fighting but isn’t it odd now to look back and see that my dad was a very mean, angry individual.  But it had a lot to do with my career and I did have a good career.
You know, I had everything that I thought would make me happy.  I mean, at 19 years old I’m living in a house with a swimming pool.  I’ve got cigarette boats. I’ve got Cadillacs, Mercedes, and I never made a million dollars or anything but I had enough money to pay for everybody’s party on the weekend and thought I was living it large.  I thought, gosh, this is how fighters do it.  But the thing is, you’re exactly right.  I was winning in my sport and actually I don’t know what it feels like not to have a referee hold my hands up after one of my fights.  I have no idea, Joel, what it would feel like to be knocked out on the ground.
But if I’ll be honest with everybody listening, I knew totally what it felt like to lose in life and that’s where you can really lose.  You can gain the whole world and think you got everything that makes you happy.  I know I’ve got a lot of friends that have great careers and even housewives that that think, hey, raising the family and doing this thing at home is on top of the world but yet be very miserable in their personal life.       And so that that’s where I was losing big time was there was a complete emptiness, an unhappiness.
I was obviously looking to fill that hole.  I had no idea what that terminology sounded like.  I thought this is just me.  It’s just my life.  It’s just how it goes.  But you know I think so many times we believe the lies that that this is who I am and my parents were who my parents were and this neighborhood that I’m in now and I can’t accept anything different and so I kind of did that as a young man.  And because of that, I started sinking in to this what was my reality at that time was life was very hard very tough and very brutal.
>> JOEL:  How long did that go on, Jonathan?  Were you were just living and believing the lies about who you were as a fighter and as a person?
>> JONATHAN: Yeah.  It went on my whole younger life, my whole entire younger life.  I’d say probably from 24 years old younger was all about believing that lie and all about trying to search for the things that would make me happy.  You know, it’s funny people look at professional athletes a lot of time — which I was one, it was a long time ago now but was one — and think that the glitter and the lights and the lights coming on after the fight and that whole lifestyle is something that’s attractive.  But what they don’t realize is that you’ve got to live life 24/7.
You know those fights only lasted — gosh, I didn’t have a single fight go past the fourth round and so they lasted very short.  And sure there’s a little party afterwards.  You are thinking this is all what it’s all about.  That’s another two hours where you got to live life the rest of the year and the rest of the month and the rest of the week.  And it was during those times when I was very, very miserable and a very angry young man.  And it’s wild now to look at now the thing that I’m doing today is trying to be impactful and change lives in that very same area where young, young men, especially these military guys that coming back from Iraq, are very, very angry and looking for life.
>> JOEL: Yes.
>> JONATHAN: And doing some of the same stuff I was doing.
>> JOEL: I want to definitely hear more about that but tell me a little bit about where you were psychologically and emotionally at that point in your life.  How hard did you try to  live up to, I don’t know,  the lies that you believed or others people’s expectations when you were still there trying to figure out what to do after the lights shut off and everybody left and it was just you?
>> JONATHAN: Yeah, well, that’s an interesting piece.  You know, that’s something that kind of came natural really. It’s wild how a sinful life comes very natural to anybody.  And so I just kind of thought, hey, this is just how it rolls.  It wasn’t like I really had to try for that aspect of it.  But trying to be happy and have some peace.  I just had no peace in my life at all.  I mean, I just remember times again and again I was sitting in my bed at night with misery on my mind and with a lot of anger and all the violence that comes with that sport.
You know, one of the things that I found out really the hard way that there’s a real enemy of anger and its wild today, Joel.  I get an opportunity to speak in a lot of churches and a lot of from NFL teams to schools to prisons to all sorts of people, corporate functions.  But its wild now, Joel.  I don’t know if you realize it but when I’m in this position how many wives come up to me and say, boy you know my husband is a minister but you have no idea how angry he is at home.
There’s a real issue there that I’m able to able to kind of break through a little bit, I guess, of what God has taught me and shown me through this thing of anger.  So it touches all facets of life and a lot of women.  Don’t be so foolish enough to think that there’s not a lot of women today that struggle with this anger.  And it’s the same anger that I dealt with in the ring.  Same anger that I dealt with.  Anger is anger.  And it’s very similar to what plagued me my whole life.
>> JOEL: Okay.
>> JONATHAN: But one of the things, one of the real tickets to getting past that that I would love for the audience to know — it’s a real secret, if you will — of stamping out the anger issues in a person’s life and, Joel, that’s all wrapped up in one word and that’s called forgiveness.  You know, I had to learn to forgive my father.  And one of the things that I learned very quickly was I was not going to be very successful in anything after my sport.
After I got out, I wasn’t going to be very successful at anything unless I solved this issue.  This real deep-seated issue I had of anger and it was a lot towards my father.  So I had to somehow come to grips with forgiving my father and one of the first things I’ll never forget I thought was my father doesn’t deserve to be forgiven.  I wonder who’s listening to me today that’s thinking of somebody that doesn’t deserve to be forgiven?  Maybe it’s a crime that happened.  Maybe it’s a husband. Maybe it’s a wife.  Maybe it’s a divorce.  You know, maybe it’s something else that just went on and they’re thinking how nobody deserves to be forgiven for what they did to me.  And I had to come to grips with that as well.
But, Joel, the one reason that we forgive is not because people deserve it or because it’s right or wrong, we forgive simply because Jesus Christ forgave us.  See, Joel, one of the things I realized was I knew how bad I was. I knew how rotten I was.  Nobody had to convince me of that.  And I knew it way down deep inside of my core of how many bad things that I had done.  And so I knew that if Jesus Christ could forgive me of all those things, of all that rotten bad things that I’ve done, gosh, surely, surely, I could learn to forgive somebody that hadn’t done nearly as bad things as I had done.
>> JONATHAN: Now take me to the steps here.  Take me to the steps here of how you are able to make a spiritual reconciliation with your dad or how you were able to make a spiritual reconciliation with yourself.
>> JONATHAN: Yeah.  You know, that’s a long story but I’ll give you the nuts and bolts of it.
>> JOEL: Sure.
>> JONATHAN: I went through a real process of transformation.  And I think part of what I live by is tough times can do a lot to change a man, can change a person.  And there was a lot of those tough times that came along in my life.  I got shot in the head with a sawed-off shotgun.  I almost died living that crazy life.  I hit a car on a motorcycle doing 120 miles an hour.  There were many, many times when I could have – when I was literally at the point of death and for me that’s kind of what it took for me was to get to some drastic point of almost dying before I could finally say, okay, what else is there?
It’s a tragedy for me to see so many people in this world today that have to go through something really, really tough before they’ll finally say, okay, God, what do you have for me?  What are you trying to teach me?  What are you trying to show me?  It was after a series of a lot of events like that.  Tragic events that happened in my life before I finally — it was after the motorcycle accident.
I hit a car doing almost 120.  I was in the hospital with casts on both my legs, a cast on my right arm where I finally was on rock bottom, ready to look up.  That was my rock-bottom.  Everybody’s got their own rock-bottom.  But that was my time of saying, okay, there’s got to be a different way.  There’s got to be something else to this life that somehow I’m just missing it.
And you know, Joel, very honestly I didn’t think Christianity was it.  I didn’t think it was for me.  I didn’t understand it.  I knew about it but I just didn’t think that was my answer.  I thought Christians were not anything like me.  It wasn’t all about fighting.  It wasn’t all about sports.  It wasn’t all about the fun and glitter and lights.  But I’ll never forget it.  A guy walked into my hospital bed that — my hospital room that day when I had the casts on both legs and one arm.
I was in the greatest shape of my life at that time, walking through everybody in my sport, in tiptop physical condition.  I trained like a madman.  I ran ten miles a day every day.  My diet was perfect.  I ate nothing but chicken and vegetables.  And so I literally went from tiptop physical condition to the worst condition I’d ever been in in my life there in that motorcycle accident.  And I was sitting in that hospital bed knowing something should change and a man walked into my hospital room, Joel, that day.  I barely knew him.  I knew a little bit about him but barely knew the guy.  I knew who he was.  And he began talking to me about Christianity.  Began talking to me about faith, about God.  And I’ll tell you, Joel, it all sounded like Japanese to me.  I’m like I don’t know what this guy is saying.  I mean it’s even hard for me to understand.
Sometimes I think as Christians we speak to people that are not Christians or maybe people that are on the bow or on the fence.  And when you use all this language that doesn’t sound right, it sounds like what is he speaking in, Korean or something?  So it didn’t sound right but I caught a phrase that he told me. And I’ll never forget it.  I caught a phrase.  And that phrase that he began to say was, your life can be totally different.  Well see, that I knew I needed.  I didn’t understand all the God stuff but knew I needed — I was smart enough to know that I needed a different life.  So I began to inquire about that.  I began to ask him what are you – how can you tell me that, right?  How can you tell me my life could be radically different from it is today?
I thought to myself, doesn’t this God know who my dad was?  Doesn’t he know my family?  Doesn’t he know my neighborhood I came from?  See, so many times I believe we believe the lie of where we came from is who we are today.  So I didn’t — I totally could not see how everything could change.  But I asked him, I said, how are you going to tell me that everything can change?  And here’s what he told me.  He says not only can I guarantee you that everything in your life can radically change, he says I can tell you exactly how to get that.  Well, now I’m listening, right?
>> JOEL: Sure.
>> JONATHAN: He’s fixing to give me the real secret behind this whole thing and now I’m wide open.  I’m all ears.  What in the world could he be saying?  Here’s what he told me.  He says everything in your life can change.  Everything can be different.  And all you need for that to happen is a man named Jesus Christ.
>> JOEL: Okay.
>> JONATHAN: And I thought boy if that’s the ticket, that’s all I need.  I thought, well gosh, I’ve tried everything else.  I’ve done everything else. I’ve had the glitter and lights and all the toys I thought made me happy.  I’m a miserable individual. I thought, okay, I’m going to try this Jesus Christ.  And I said a little simple prayer that day but I don’t remember the words.
And I think too many times we hone in on words but I remember my heart, Joel, I remember my heart was that I’m all in.  My heart said okay.  I don’t know how this is going to be but I’m going to try to do this thing God’s way from here on out.  So I said a little simple prayer asking Jesus Christ into my life to change me, to come into my heart, to save my soul, to come to a place where I was reborn.  And I experienced that, Joel.  I experienced a radical transformation that I would’ve never dreamed possible there in that hospital bed that to this very day has done exactly what that man told me.  It transformed my life.
>> JOEL:  Not only did it –
>> JONATHAN:  And you know, Joel, that’s just kind of what I want to be a part of today.  It happened to me and I just want to see everybody else that I come in contact with experience that same transformation when they’re empty, when they’re losing in life.  We got so many military guys coming back from Iraq that are losing in life big time but I want to see them win.  And I found out the hard way what it takes to win and that’s through a man named Jesus Christ.
>> JOEL: Indeed.  Indeed.  Wow, what a powerful, powerful story, Jonathan.  Thank you so much for sharing that.  And I want to talk about another thing before we get into what you are currently working on and I know you got some exciting projects that are already in the works for you.  You know, you accepted Jesus Christ there in the hospital bed and like the man said it did totally transform your life but it didn’t mean that it was going to be all of a sudden simple.  And that it was all – that it was going to be — well, it’s a piece of cake now.  Here’s your get out of jail free card and be on your way.
But there are still hurdles there and there was a big hurdle there for you and it goes back to the forgiveness because you had something that you needed to — and I’m getting ready start crying now — but you had something in your life that was very significant that you needed to forgive God for.  And sometimes he can be the hardest one to forgive so talk about your son.
>> JONATHAN: Yeah, you bet.  I’d love to.  Love to talk about my son.  That’s the saying is we feel like when we become a Christian so many times people tell us everything’s going to be great.  Everything’s all about prosperity and God wants you to have the best and the greatest.  And life doesn’t really work that way.  I found out real quickly that because I was a Christian, I didn’t live in a bubble. So many times I think there’s many — even denominations that just feel like we’re in a bubble now.  We’re all protected.  We’re praying properly and we’re walking properly and God’s on our side now.
But I found out tough times still come even when you’re living life properly.  I was extremely disciplined in my sport.  And I found out very quickly that I could translate that discipline into my Christian life also.  And man, I could march exactly how you wanted me to march.  I read the Bible the best I could.  All of the Ten Commandments, read it constantly.  I knew how it was supposed to go and because of that, quite honestly, I was very religious in that regard and in my march and how that thing went.
But even in that I found that tough times would still come and I thought how can this be?  Right?  I’m a Christian now.  God’s on my side now.  But I began to realize there’s an enemy out here in this world also that people don’t recognize.  And that is the enemy that comes to kill, steal, and destroy and that’s Satan and all his little posse.  Right?
>> JOEL: Sure.
>> JONATHAN: So they ganged up on me and I went through some things that were very, very, very hard.  And one of the things that I’ll talk about today is I went through a divorce and that’s something that just crushed me.  And I thought God will never use me again.  I’m done.  I’m through.  How am I ever going to minister someday with having that title behind my name?  And it was a very humbling experience.  It was nothing I wanted.  I tried to fight against it but it was just inevitable on the other party.     And I went through it and I thought, wow, even thought of suicide during those times.  I’m just being very, very honest with you.  A very brutal thing that I went through.  But you know what?  God restored that life after that.  Mind and things went on and got better and God used me anyway even after that circumstance.
So then I got married.  And my very first born son, which I had just waited my whole life for, I thought this is one of the pinnacles of my life.  I was actually 40 years old before I had my first child.  And I thought, boy, this is it.  This is what it amounts to.  This is where it goes.  And I had a son, my very first born son, named Nathan that I was just enamored by.  And at a year and a half old, my son started watching TV a little bit crooked one day and I thought what was wrong?  Maybe he needs glasses, I don’t know.
We took my son to the doctor, to five or six different doctors.  Nobody could really diagnose him.  They didn’t really know.  And finally, I went to about the fifth or sixth doctor and he says I’ve got to give you some news that is probably the worst news I’ll ever have to give in my career.  And as a matter fact, I’ll probably give this news only a couple of times in my entire doctor career.  And he says your son has brain cancer.  And he says it’s in a position — it’s a type – it’s in a place where there is really nothing you can do.  He says, quite honestly, your son will die.
And I thought, you got to be kidding me?  Right?  How in the world could this be happening?  I’m a man of God.  I’m a man of sincere faith. I’m living out this life God wanted.  I’m making an impact in this world and its three years old to about a year and half fight with that disease.  My son went to be with the Lord at three years old.  So it was a very, very trying time, a very tough time.  I just can’t tell you what all happened during that time.  It would take days and weeks.
But, Joel, the thing about that I’m at today is I’m at peace with that because if we have God’s vision, that’s the thing.  We have to get out of this worlds’ vision sometimes here and now and realize it’s not about where we’re at now but it’s where we’re going.  And the thing I’m excited about is I’ll see my son again.  Those of us who have lost loved ones we got to kind of get God’s picture about this whole thing and not our own feeble minds because it didn’t work out that way because I wanted it to.  I was crushed about it.  And I was sad about it.  I’d like to have my son here today.
I wonder how many people who are listening who have loved ones that are not with them?  But those of us that believe in Jesus Christ and are sincere about that, the Bible says we’ll spend forever and ever and ever with our loved ones not only with Jesus Christ but with our loved ones.  And so the fact is I’ve got a job to do while I’m here.  I’m still breathing.  I haven’t taken my last breath.  And I, along with the rest of your audience, we have a job to do and that’s to make an impact.  That’s to make a difference in this world.  Not just to exist and take up and breathe air or have a job or advance in our careers or build a bigger better home, but we have an opportunity to make an impact in this world and that’s what I’m still trying to do.  And I can’t wait to see my son again.
>> JOEL: Absolutely, wow, Jonathan.  What a powerful, powerful story.  Thank you so much for sharing that.  I really appreciate your transparency here.  And what I’d like to do now is shift into the impact that you’re making.  I know you’ve got a heart for the military.
And you’ve done some amazing things and you’re currently in the process of putting together some wonderful programs to help our returning soldiers from Iraq.  So talk about that.  Talk about just some of the other activities you are doing.  I know you’re speaking to churches, in prisons, you know all over the map.  Like you talked about earlier so catch us up to speed, would you please?
>> JONATHAN: Yeah, you bet.  I’d love to.  And thanks for the opportunity.  Back in 2005, God just kind of dropped something in my lap that I was not prepared for.  But it was an opportunity to go to the Pentagon and start a 501(c) 39 profit foundation to help our troops so I did that in 2005.  I stepped away from my career.  I had a very good career that I was enjoying, making money and things were progressing and I had all of these visions of God making me a millionaire.
But you know, I felt the tug of the Lord and stepped away from that whole saying and says there’s a people here, a culture here that need an impact from Jesus Christ.  And that same impact that I received and that’s the military.  And so it’s called OSU Tour and the easy way to remember that is USO backwards.
>> JOEL: Okay.
>> JONATHAN: O-S-U-T-O-U-R, OSUTOUR.org will go right straight to my website and of course people can look on there and see how we’re trying to be impactful.  But one of the great projects that I’m working on right now that I mentioned to you when we spoke earlier but it’s a trade school.  One of the things that I see these military guys we’ve got to be a little bit practical with impact in life.  I don’t believe in just standing in front of and preaching to them but if I can be practical and how I’m being practical in this sense is starting a trade school.
And what we’re doing is we’re working on military trucks.  We’re transforming and restoring military trucks but in the same exact opportunity doing that, we’re trying to create a trade school that will restore a soldier’s life and restore a soldier’s wife and get them out of that lifestyle that’s very damaging to them.  There’s so many guys coming back with suicide, with posttraumatic stress, sexual assault is through the roof in regards to the military, and they’re really having some issues.
Its wild how many people are trying to help them but that’s really just kind of a Band-Aid and they’re not doing what it really takes to transform a live and that is a life with Jesus Christ.  So some of those things that we’re trying to accomplish and striving to accomplish with our military to be able to give them the kind of life they deserve.
I think you kind of mentioned before the show, they’re winning a great battle in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Our soldiers are unbelievably trained and the job they’re doing is just phenomenal.  They’re the best in the world.  But they’re coming home and losing the biggest battle in their entire life and that’s the battle at home.  Because the divorce rates show is almost 80% on some military bases. There’s a lot of children it affects.  There’s almost 2.5 kids per home.  That’s military numbers per kids per home so when you got that kind of divorce rate, that’s a lot of children’s lives being devastated from families being torn apart also.  So there’s a lot that needs to be done.
And I’m for giving the troops things.  So many people want to write a letter and let me tell you, the troops are covered up with letters.  And they want to make them a crocheted blanket.  And there are so many things done which I don’t want to sound like I’m against because I’m for doing those things.  But I just think we’re missing the boat a little bit by not introducing them to a life, a transformation life that can happen that’s only through Jesus Christ.
But, like I say, we’ve got to be a little bit practical and nobody can really walk up to me as a fighter and preach in my face and say you need Jesus.  You need to go to church and that didn’t work for me.  But there was a practical way.  A simple way that once I heard my life could be different, my life could be better.  I wanted to know about that.
>> JOEL: Absolutely.  Wow.  What a wonderful work that you’re doing.  What a wonderful vision.  I’m a big military supporter so anything that is pro-military is definitely pro-our show.  So thank you so much Jonathan for being a part of that and for supporting our troops.  And what a wonderful gift to give.     Anything else that we need to cover?  I know you’re a busy guy.  I really appreciate your time here today.
>> JONATHAN: It’s great to be on your show, Joel.  I appreciate the opportunity.
>> JOEL: Absolutely.  What’s the best way that we can get in touch with you and learn more about the OSU and the speaking that you’re doing and the impact that you’re having?
>> JONATHAN: Yeah, you bet.  The best way to get in touch with me in regards to the work that I’m doing today and that would be OSU tour, that’s O-S-U-T-O-U-R.org.  But from my personal standpoint, I do have a personal website called J Spinks.  It’s my first initial, last name.  That’s J-S-P-I-N-K-S.org.  And I do have quite a bit on there about my son.
So if anybody has lost a loved one, especially a child with cancer or there’s a lot of parents that are struggling with their sons and daughters not coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan so I’ve tried to put some things on there that kind of just shed some light on that story, also my personal website.  But, anyway, those are linked together and you can get any of my information on those websites.
>> JOEL: Okay.  Fantastic.  I did a call not too long ago about passion and one of the places that passion can be burst is through a traumatic experience.  And that’s some of what I covered in the call that I did not too long ago.  But I so much admire and respect what you’re doing because you’ve taken, Jonathan, the traumatic experiences that you suffered in your life and that you’ve walked through and that Christ has brought you through and you’ve harnessed that energy and you’ve harnessed the lessons that you’ve learned and – just kind of let me preach here for a second, if you will.  And you’ve harnessed the lessons that you learned and you’ve used them to drive your cause.
And there is amazing things that happen when a person surrenders, surrenders to God, surrenders to Christ.  And just lets it happen.  Amazing things happen when people are courageous enough to surrender in that way and, gosh, Jonathan.
>> JONATHAN: Yeah.  I hope your audience knows that they have a choice.  It’s a choice we have —
>> JOEL: Yes.
>> JONATHAN: — when traumatic things happen.  You know I could’ve turned the other way.  I remember so many times —
>> JOEL: You had every reason to.
>> JONATHAN: Even the death of my son — I was still on top of that hospital even after the death of my son and said I could either go the world’s way and be mad and angry and curse God or I can serve him anyway.  So we do have a choice as human beings when something bad happens to us.  And I just pray and hope that your listening audience will just continue to follow God’s way.  Not their own way, not the world’s way because that’s the enemy that wants to destroy them.
But if we’ll do things God’s way, it will work out.  God does bless.  I can say wholeheartedly today God is always good.  I’ve learned things that I would never have learned hadn’t it been for the death of my son.  So I can truly praise the Lord for a lot of that.  It didn’t go how I wanted it but I can praise the Lord and be at peace.  And know that my time on this Earth is still here and we can choose to make an impact in this world.
>> JOEL: Absolutely.  And you are doing just that.  God bless you, Jonathan.  Thank you so much for your time and I can’t wait till our next conversation.
>> JONATHAN: Okay, Joel.  Thanks for having me.
>> JOEL: All the best.

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