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.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Loving a Terrorist

Do you know what it's like to have someone in your life you couldn't imagine living without? I'm not talking about a spouse, a child or a family member. I'm talking about someone who is merely a friend - someone with whom you have no blood ties with, whom you could drift apart from if the right circumstances lined up to the point where that person could end up being nothing but a distant memory.

I have someone like that. And I would let go of the friendship were it not for one tiny fact: I love him. I'm not talking about romantic love or the love that we associate today with meat pies and favourite places. I'm talking about a love in which I imagine an eternity in God's presence and my heart breaks because at this point, I know he wouldn't be there.

When I first embarked on this friendship, I heard God telling me something distinctly: that I was putting my heart in the hands of a terrorist. Part of me understood that and part of me denied it because this friendship felt so natural. At that point in time, we fulfilled some gap in each other's lives that nothing else had been able to fill. That mutual filling is addictive and when two parties are willing to listen to each other, that is one of the most fertile grounds for friendship to happen.

Now, some time down the track, that fertile period is over and I now find myself in a friendship which many of us have experienced: one in which you are sometimes left feeling hurt, sometimes ignored, and sometimes the sparks just aren't flying no matter how much you try. And when that happens, I hear God's words again, that my heart is in the hands of a terrorist. But now I also hear him whispering addendum, "Love unconditionally."

With others in the past, when I've heard that, I've sighed and mentally rolled up my sleeves for the hard slog ahead. But while I have done that in this case, the slog is different. As I'm wading through the misunderstandings, the times of abandonment and general busyness that sometimes keeps us apart, I remember what it used to be.

And then at some point in time, it suddenly hit me. That I was seeing some part of God's heart. That this was no different to his love for me...for everyone. How many times has he been ignored and abandoned by me? How many times have I given him the worst part of my day, if at all, and expected him to still be there when I needed him? I am the terrorist and he...he has put his heart in my hands.

Yet he continues to remember and visualize what life with me was like and what it could be again. And that Past and Future shoulder his Present to keep on loving. How absolutely humbling and how I hope that I can reciprocate a small part of the delight that he cannot help but take in me.