Category Archives: resolutions

What if turning the other cheek is actually an Aikido move?

For clarity, I’m not attempting to exegete Matthew 5:39. In fact, this is about a conversation I had with my mom. (Quick aside – and dangerously close to a cliché – but I’m gladdened to report that both my parents have become incredibly, almost supernaturally, smarter in the past couple years.) *grin* I was sharing with my mom about a difficult situation I’m in the middle of and she told me a story. Four years ago she was doing a very intensive personal growth seminar. One of the exercises involved practicing some martial arts moves. As she relayed her thoughts about responding to the situation I was in, she said, “What if turning the other cheek is actually an Aikido move?”

First off, I’d like to acknowledge that as one of the greatest quotes I’ve ever heard from my mom. Second, something in my masculine heart screamed “YES!” at the idea. Aikido is a form of martial arts and the word aikido is generally translated as “the way of harmonious spirit.” There are many different forms of martial arts. Many of them practice actions which oppose an attacker directly. Blocking, punching faster, meeting a fist with an elbow, etc. Others, like Judo, focus on using an attacker’s momentum against them. The guiding principle of Aikido is unique in that avoiding the energy of the attack is balanced with not inflicting further harm upon the attacker.

For example, a Karate block might be designed to not only stop an incoming punch but also disable the attacking arm. The corresponding Judo move would try to use the energy of the incoming punch to throw the attacker to the ground. But in Aikido, the move would usually allow the energy of the attack to simply pass by. Not blocked, not redirected, just avoided. What is fascinating about this idea to me is that it feels so very like the Jesus I read about. When confronted with an attack, sometimes He met it head on by quoting scripture or telling a relevant story. Other times He simply walked away when it wasn’t time to fight. And I love the idea that perhaps in this passage, that’s what He’s trying to tell us.

As I prayed through my particular situation and asked for guidance, I felt strongly that the conversation with my mom had come up on purpose. Difficult situations have the potential to bring out the worst in people. I find that I normally default to continuing confrontation, aggressively pursuing the issue to resolution. Then I end up thinking about what I need to say in one of those sleepless nights. The kind where I mentally preach an awesome 2 a.m. sermon that convicts everyone else in the situation of their errors and ends happily for me with their repentance. But as I prayed into the situation, I began to feel God distancing me from the emotions of the conflict. Making it clear to me that my role in this wasn’t to be confrontational. Allowing me to step back and see that no one in the conflict was my enemy. At one point, addressing a few of my lingering concerns, I felt like God brought up the question, “How many of these last few areas that you feel strongly about are just you needing to be right?” And He was dead on. The last few things my flesh wanted to argue about were the places I felt wronged or misunderstood. I knew that I didn’t want to do further damage to anyone involved. But I needed this idea to help me step aside and let the conflict pass me by.

The whole process took a few painful weeks, but looking back, it feels incredibly valuable. Much like spiritual warfare, I don’t plan to pray that conflict won’t happen to me, I pray that my readiness and awareness will increase. That I will be able to recognize more quickly when attacks or negativity can simply be avoided, forgotten, let go. When they don’t even need to be addressed. The truth is that Jesus didn’t meet every attack head on – and I don’t need to either. Sometimes there are situations where someone isn’t even aware that they are attacking us. And we have the opportunity to simply turn the other cheek and allow the energy of the attack to pass us by unaffected without doing any further damage to the relationship.

 

Sensory overload

The Last Samurai is a wonderful film about redemption, courage, and honor. Captain Nathan Algren, fighting alongside the forces of the Emperor of Japan, loses a battle to the rebel samurai. He is taken and held captive, living among them, learning their ways, and gradually coming to understand and respect their methods. In one scene, he is trying and failing to master the samurai sword. A young man named comes to his side with this advice:

Nobutada (to Algren):   “Please forgive, too many mind.”

Nathan Algren:   “Too many mind?”

Nobutada:   “Hai. Mind the sword, mind the people watch, mind the enemy, too many mind… [pause] No mind.”

 Sage advice. In my own life, I feel like I’m constantly losing the battle of just being. I’m minding the sword, the people watching, the enemy, as well as all the rest of life being thrown my direction at light speed. And all of it, every last bit, seemingly pushing me to do this or do that or just…do…something. As if by the doing of one thing I will feel better about the lack of the doing of everything else.

 Where is the space in our lives to just….be? To sit quietly. To simply be somewhere. Present. Accounted for. But not doing anything. What a beautiful and elusive picture. I’m pretty sure the psalmist knew what he was asking when he said “Lead me beside still waters” as opposed to “I got it, God, no problem. I can get the whitewater trip set up this week, easy. Promo, ads, website, registration, paypal…”

 Did you know that 100 years ago, the average American absorbed and processed less than 1 megabyte of external content every day? (That is, content not found in nature or personal conversations or interactions – like a street sign, billboard, music, TV, movies, etc.) Did you know that the average person in the US today processes over 3.7 terabytes of information every day? Or more accurately, attempts to process? For those keeping score at home, one terabyte is the amount of information that would be stored on 50,000 trees cut down and made into books. Two terabytes is equal to an average state university’s entire research library! And we’re trying to digest 3.7.

 I have been spending a lot of time lately, thinking and processing and praying about what it means to be a man in his thirties. I don’t have a lot of conclusions yet. But one theme keeps appearing as I ask questions – being versus doing. There are loads of bible verses about abiding in Christ, finding peace in Him, taking time to pursue Him, walking with God and many other concepts that support the idea that simply being with Him is the goal. Versus trying to accomplish things for Him. Jesus made it a priority to clear his schedule, leave the busyness, abandon the crowds and find a quiet place to simply be with his Father. I can only assume he was on to something important.

 In my own life, I know that when I am simply present in the fullness of who I am, good things happen. Moments when I experience God personally and intimately. When I encounter Him and find peace. The days or hours or minutes when I feel most alive. He said to me the other day, “I care far more about your heart than anything you can ever do for me.” My heart knows it’s true. Being is a daily choice to fight off each of the 3,700,000,000,000 bytes trying to steal the truth from me and replace it with doing.

In the company of mockers

Psalm 1 (NIV) says “Blessed are those who do not…sit in the company of mockers…” As I was reflecting on this last week, I couldn’t help but be staggered by the number of places in my life where I choose to sit in the company of mockers. Mocking means to treat with ridicule, contempt, or derision. When I sit back with some perspective and that definition, it seems that I am surrounded by a world full of people mocking me, my values, Jesus and Christianity in general, as well as the life choices I am making. In the past, I’ve chalked up the mocking to ‘just the way things are’ or ‘that’s just the world in which I live’ or whatever. And while those rationalizations may have some truth to them, the last week of pondering this has led me to the conclusion that it is most often my choice to sit in their company. How many hours a week do I spend in front of the television, watching movies, listening to the radio, or my personal habit, endlessly devouring each bit of online news that streams across my screen.

Sure, there are fun shows that entertain. Radio can inform. Keeping up on current events seems harmless enough. But it seems easy enough to reconcile this verse with what we know of Jesus’ life here on earth. I don’t recall many verses in the gospels that are devoted to conversations about the good or bad of the current political regime. I think it is safe to assume that Jesus didn’t spend a lot of time debating politics with his disciples. He seemed primarily concerned with the condition of the human heart, not human circumstances. Even when he was actively fixing circumstances, which he did quite often in healing the sick and such, he almost always asked them questions about their heart.

And when confronted with those who mocked him, he didn’t sidestep their contempt, ridicule and derision with excuses. He didn’t placate their self-defined righteous anger with soft words. He risked offending them by telling the truth in love. Jesus seemed to delight in challenging the status quo, didn’t he? When the Pharisees tried to bait him with politics, he went right for their hearts. When the rich young ruler asked for a next step, he didn’t suggest a building program or a stewardship plan or a planned gift to the future church, Jesus  went straight for his heart.

I’m not writing this because I have a prescription ready for you. On the contrary, I’m in the middle of the situation and I feel compelled to speak about it out loud. Because I am convinced that often I choose to sit and watch a movie instead of pursuing my wife’s heart at the end of a long day. While that movie may not overtly communicate that everything I hold dear is wrong, it does usually mock, deride, ridicule and hold in contempt the values I treasure and want to live by. Too long have I been content to just let that happen, to sit silently, letting the opinion of mockers spill freely over me. Content to absorb, seemingly unaware that according to Scripture, long term exposure to mockery is hazardous to my health. As is the case with most of my life, it seems, the more difficult choice is usually the one that leads to real life.

Maybe Robert Frost captured it best:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.