Tuesday, 10 June 2014

People and Animals

I keep being told that people aren't animals. But sometimes I wish they were. Then they'd be easier to love.

You see, for me, when a dog or a cat comes in the room, there's this part of me that immediately opens up and longs to embrace it. I accept it in spite of all its breed faults, hair-shedding and tendencies to scratch you when you're trying to give it a cuddle. Anytime I'm bitten or growled at, I brush it off and say it must've been my fault and that I had it coming to me.

But if a person were to do this to me, I wouldn't love it half so much, no matter what the Bible says. I keep praying that God will open my eyes and teach me to love unconditionally. But it's not working.

That is, until perhaps, today.

I was reading "Blue Like Jazz" by Donald Miller. He's more of a cynic than me which wasn't working at the start, but now, I think we have more of an understanding. I sit through his elaborate analogies of why church sucks and how twisted Christianity has become because I realize that part of me thinks that too. And his world didn't cave in despite still believing in God. And so mine shouldn't either.

Today, I finished the chapter on Love. Miller writes about how he heard someone talking about analogies and how analogies change our perception of things. Like when we talk about relationships, we tend to use words like "value", "worth" and "bankrupt". Economic terms, in short. And that makes us think that love is a commodity that needs to spent lavishly in some areas and scrupulously in others. Perhaps even stingily. We use love like we use money. And the last time I saw, most of us aren't using money too wisely either. So our world is kind of messed up.

To be honest, I still think that if everyone was a dog, I'd still love them easier than if I started not thinking about love as a commodity. But what I did learn today was that others are struggling with this concept of "unconditional love". And that while it is insane, it isn't impossible.

Miller goes on to say that when he realized how much of a warped idea he had about love, his heart suddenly opened and he flipped that switch. It may sound like something that puts more pressure on you, when you realize just how unloving you are, but for him, he talks about it as a very liberating thing. For once, he didn't have to pretend to like people, and that, I can imagine, was a big load of his shoulders. Do you know how hard it is to pretend to like someone? Or, even if you're just the honest kind, to have people you straight out don't like? I'd rather just like them for real.

Time to put that in practice.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

The Christian Hug

Yup, it's a two-post day. But since this has been rattling around in my head for awhile, I probably shouldn't wait any longer to get this down.

I first heard the term "Christian hug" a couple of weeks ago. It was uttered by a non-Christian friend who, when persuaded to elaborate, described it as a cautious sideways hug with minimal contact. Meanwhile, I sat quietly horrified...horrified because he was right.

That is indeed the "Christian hug" and I have even heard pastors talk about how they have perfected it. It is a hug that is directed particularly towards those of the opposite sex, designed so that it cannot be mistaken for anything more than cool friendliness. When I talked to Chad about this later, I burst out in frustration, "But we Christians should be known for giving the biggest and best hugs!" How ever did we get associated with a lame excuse for an exhibition of love?

And yet, I think I know exactly how:
"Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body." - 1 Corinthians 6:18

I understand this. I understand that a lot of people cannot handle certain images, people, circumstances - whatever it is - without an improper thought whisking by and lodging in their brains. To be fair, this is probably most of us. And so we flee, and this takes the form of a lifetime of Christian hugs.

The problem is that I can't see Jesus doing this. If he had, I don't think we would have stories about him associating with prostitutes. The other problem I have with this is that in that case, a person's "purity" is based on a foundation that is not very stable to begin with. It is like saying to an obese person with a food addiction that they should never look at chocolate again. And as studies have shown, physical contact is nourishment to the soul as much as food is nourishment to the body.

A person can claim to be pure by consciously avoiding all traps that will lead them astray, but the moment something remotely smacking of something "forbidden" flies by, the person's thoughts will most likely take a drastic trip and fall. And this is what we see consistently. Christians are no less susceptible to divorce and sexual immorality than anyone else. Our "immunity" so-to-speak, has been closeted, rather than built up.

I am no expert in how to get this immunity built up, but I firmly do believe that Christian hugs are not the way to go. Maybe at the start, but we shouldn't remain there.

I love this picture. It is the picture of a friend and I playing in a puddle we found. And although my conscience is clear and I have no qualms about showing this picture to Chad, I'm loathe to share this with people I know as I suspect a few people would probably frown on this - people who will never understand that this is the picture of two friends who are genuinely having a blast and nothing more. 
One thing a year of acro has taught me is the value of the touch of friends who are there for nothing more than to keep you safe, to make you feel loved and to express joy in your company. Sometimes, the "improper" placement of a friend's hand has stopped me from breaking my nose and I have thanked them for it. There is a mutual understanding that we need and respect each other, and in that understanding, the word "forbidden" does not even cross our minds because it is not even a factor.

To make it clear, this is not the kind of relationship that everyone is ready for. But it isn't out of reach if a person works on growing and building up their foundation in a healthy way rather than running away all the time. And why should we not do this? For I believe that it is the kind of relationship that comes close to the kind of love that we'll see in heaven.

My 1-Year Acro Anniversary

It's just over a year since I started doing acrobatics - a journey that has so far given me much more than I had thought possible: an amazing full-body workout that I never get tired of, the opportunity to fulfill one of the items on my bucket list, and a bunch of friends I have come to love.

To summarize two of the most important things I've learnt, I've "immortalized" them here in a visual format:

And last but not least: 
having friends who encourage (and spot) you makes all the difference.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

I am Peter

I am currently in the midst of performing in my first attempt at circus theatre. It is a thing that I had put on my bucket list and I am amazed and excited that I get to fulfill this wish only one year later. As is the case with performing arts, there are times of craziness, and then times of just waiting around. It is during these times that I have started teaching others to do handstands.

And in teaching others, I keep telling people that to learn to handstand, the best thing to learn is a concept that most people overlook: and that is learning to fall. Learning to fall and then getting back up again.

I'm learning this over again in so many other ways. I now feel like I live somewhere in limbo: between a lifestyle of "accepted", identifiable Christian behaviour and that of a "liberated" hippy left-winger. I struggle with explaining myself to either camps and it frustrates me...because I feel that neither understand how, more than ever, I am desperately clinging to the love of my God and saviour. I am hanging out with the tax collectors because I know what it is to be one of them. I am Peter as he steps out of the boat on to the water. And I understand him perfectly when he looks away, begins to sink and cries out. I am Peter when he reaches for Jesus as the waves slowly close over his body. And through the successes and (probably more importantly) the failures, I am still glad that I stepped out of the boat.

I am praying for the strength to keep going...to learn how to fall and to learn how to get back up again.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Learning to Stand

It's Handstand February and I am just in time.

My journey from neanderthal to hand-balancer has been a long and (physically) painful one. But it's been ridiculously rewarding. I feel a confidence in myself, whether upside-down or upright, that I didn't have before. And today, I'm happy to invert myself without the need for walls, cushions or people. It's still a hit-and-miss thing, but for the most part, I am hitting.

In the meantime, my journey from agnostic to Christ-follower has been an even longer and painful (in all ways) one. This past week, I've been battling some infections that, although hopefully minor, still leave me miserable and gritting my teeth.

One night, I woke up in a haze of pain. I felt like my chest was being put through a meat grinder. It sounds ridiculous, now looking back, but I briefly thought that I might die. And then I thought of all my friends that were still "unsaved" whom I still hadn't had the opportunity to share God with. And that was more agonizing to me than the pain in my body.

I woke up the next morning physically fine, but I was shaken. The night had taught me how I really felt about my friends and how unwilling I was to be without them forever. And if I felt that way, how much more did God? Thankfully, since we do seem to be on the same page in that respect, God seems to have given me little nudges along the way with respect to my friends. Sometimes, it's been the "love unconditionally" message, another time, it's been "be careful". But currently, we're in the "let me (God) handle it" phase. As relieved as I am that it's not all up to me, I'm wanting it to happen now. I want to be there at every twist and turn in my friends' lives. I want to applaud and sympathize and encourage where appropriate. But that's really more manhandling than trusting. And I'm not sure that manhandling ever produces great results.

I'm still learning to stand in entirely different ways.