What Me Worry?

I’ll admit to a geeky period in childhood when Alfred E. Neumann and Mad Magazine captured my affections. I loved “Spy vs. Spy” and how the back page could be folded to answer a summary question about the whole back page picture. Most of all, I was curious about the pie-faced kid known as Alfred E.  Not a care in the world.

That wasn’t my world (probably why it captivated me). Mine was rife with chaos and turbulence. We weren’t known as latch-key kids back then but we pretty much raised ourselves in those days; my sis, brother and me. I was not exactly the paragon of older brother virtue.

When my dad was around it was full of booze-laden vitriol and kids walking on eggshells.  When he was gone, my mom took up the drinking. She was a sad drunk and wanted syrupy sweet crying sessions about everything.

Professionals will now tell you that is the seedbed for enablers.  As the oldest I began to fix everything. I had a duty and that was to control the environment and keep everything on task. I attacked school and boy scouts with a passion, not for the experience but as a way of working myself into deservability.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s character Goodman Brown said; “the devil in his own shape is less hideous than when he rages in the breast of man”. It’s that precise unholy alliance that produces insecurity, worry, self-interested preservation; just about every vice there is in establishing identity.

Psalm 131 is an invitation to a fully developed sense of self and identity. It is a grace-filled invitation to return to the partnership that was originally intended. Whether we end up looking like Alfred E or the Pillsbury doughboy, it doesn’t matter nearly so much as what the Lord of heaven has put in your heart.  That is a beautiful personage.


Swimming Lessons

In an effort to get into better physical shape and to not look like such a donut-eater at my 40-year high school reunion, I started taking up swimming.  After thrashing around a few times since September, I’ve remembered again that I hate swimming.   I inevitably get into the pool at the same time as an accomplished swimmer and that makes me want to get as far away as possible. Then I get big and thrash my way to the other side so as to not look like the land dweller I really am.  It doesn’t work. By the time I’ve gotten to the other side, my heart rate is at 180 and I’ve already swallowed my lifetime allotment of chlorine.

Salvation visited me one evening when I got into the pool with one of these fish. This particular one went to my church. At one particular breather point I asked Jim for some pointers and he suggested that I google Total Immersion Swimming or Tim Ferris.  Both were big proponents of a particular approach to the entire swimming experience.

This approach has become a revolutionary step for me.  It’s basic premise is that swimming is about reducing the gap between the propulsion that you seek in the water and the resistance the water wants to place on your body.  In short, it’s not about how many laps, how fast are times, or how anaerobic your workout is.  It’s about repeating the efficiency motion once the motion has been mastered.  By reducing resistance you improve efficiency.

Mind blowing. In just one workout I reduced my stroke count from 22 strokes per 20 yard lap to 11!  If you are swimming a mile, that’s a whole lot of saved strokes.

I also couldn’t help but see the spiritual implications in the rebuilding of my approach in the water for it has several correlations. Over the next several sermons I will explore these in total but for today the primary change of focus is found in aesthetics.

First, I want to have an aesthetically-oriented approach to my spiritual walk not a legalistic one. In swimming, paddles, fins and other devices force the body to divide at the waistline and the tasks of the upper body are often separated from the tasks of the lower.  In a total immersion approach the dividing line is down the center of the length of the frame so that balance is achieved on both sides of the stroke.

In our western approach we often use the word repentance as a term of total renunciation of things in this life.  While that is, in part true (I suppose it depends on what you mean when saying ‘this life’), it poses us in an inexorable tussle against the nature and glory of God. This, for me, only puts the spotlight on half of God’s original intention. There is so much to be seen in the original mandate and mission that God placed in our dna.  That is to steward and manifest his image into our world.

When I look at God’s image stamped on the wonder of nature and inspiring elements of humankind and art, I get a taste of what he has in mind for me;  To create great pieces of aesthetically pleasing effort in partnership with Him.  Repentance in that sense, is a rejection of the vulgar expressions that take the place of beautiful ones.  I reject lust in favor of love, freedom takes the frontrow to fear, and hate is renounced in favor of community.

Today, I don’t just want to be a good person. I want to be a beautiful one. The one that God created and the one for which He sent his Son.