The value of a flexible spirit - Joel Hall

Sometimes, people can really surprise you.

On Saturday night, watching UFC 109, I witnessed Chael Sonnen pull out an impressive win against Nate Marquardt, a stronger-looking opponent, who was the favorite coming into the fight.

Early on in the fight, Sonnen's forehead was cut open by a quick elbow from Marquardt, causing Sonnen to bleed profusely. Despite looking like a battered mess, Sonnen used his wrestling background to dominate the fight, and win a unanimous decision from the judges, after three, 5-minute rounds.

The result was surprising, but the most surprising thing to me was that, just prior to the fight, Sonnen announced that he will be running as a Republican for Oregon's Fifth Congressional District seat, currently held by U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore).

I can't imagine how difficult it would be to listen to the complaints and needs of constituents, while suffering a broken nose, a broken arm, and whatever other injuries a mixed-martial artist may have to deal with on a regular basis.

However, based on Sonnen's illustrious wrestling background at the University of Oregon and hometown-hero status in West Linn, Ore., he may have a shot at becoming a congressman.

The fight got me thinking about the plans humans make for themselves and the paths they take. While we may have one thing planned for ourselves, God may have something totally different in store for us.

In my own life, I never imagined that I would be writing for a living. I always enjoyed writing and found that, from an early age, it was the easiest way for me to express my thoughts and feelings. In high school, I even won some awards at the Virginia state level for some of the short stories I had written.

However, music was always my first love, because it really delivered me from a childhood experience that could have been somewhat negative.

I discovered the violin at the age of seven, shortly after a counselor noticed that I was getting into a lot of fights at school. As one of only a few black children to attend my elementary school, I was constantly picked on and verbally assaulted. However, the music program I was referred to, took me out of that environment, and put me around other students who were interested in cultivating their musical talent.

I always imagined that I would be a concert violinist, playing on the world's finest stages, pouring all of my time, talent and love into violin. As I got older, however, I realized that God gave me the ability to excel in many things, not just one thing, and that to really enjoy my life, I had to be willing to let God take me in a different direction from time to time.

As I learn more about myself, I am finding that God gives us many talents, and at different times in our lives, we may be called upon to use them in different ways.

In the fight to become better at things, we often pigeonhole ourselves into thinking that we can only be effective in one area. However, I am learning that God gives us the ability to be effective in many ways, and making the best of those talents requires a flexible spirit.

Sonnen has dedicated his life to fighting and martial arts, but perhaps, he also has the ability to lead.

In the same way, people can discover strengths they never thought they had -- if they allow themselves to do so.

Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at jhall@news-daily.com.