Thursday, September 07, 2006
struck down, but not destroyed
From 2 Corinthian 4:7-12 (NASB):
Late night ramblings and spiritual musings.
A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to be the scripture reader during the Sunday morning 3rd service, and the above passage was the one given to me to read. It's an interesting passage, maybe because it goes straight to the ugly facts that followers of God sometimes seem gloss over about life in this world: that we too sometimes cannot avoid suffering, confusion, abandonment, or being wounded.
In eyes of an amoral and atheistic modern world, it would seem to be ultimate foolishness to choose to subscribe to a divine being and set of spiritual beliefs that promise the inevitability of pain rather than the total relief of pain. Since the earliest histories of humanity's search for an authentic spirituality, people have sought the perfect relief /protection from pain - we have desired an easy-to-don spiritual aegis that renders us completely focused on our own happiness.
For myself, I'd like to think my stomach for pain and disappointment would have strengthened over the years, but I find that still, the seeds of doubt that lurk about in my mind have already sprouted thorns. I find I worry already about a lot of things, but especially about re-applying to grad school, teaching again, and being put back in typical elementary school ecosystem, with unabashed lack of men, and even a more unabashed lack of men of color. A year ago, my dream of going into education had seemed so bright and attainable, the final convergence of something I felt I had a small amount of ability to do along with my own spiritual, moral, and social views. Now, even with another opportunity just a few months away, there's a small anxiety festering as a result of the failure of previous efforts... I've already been struck down plenty of times before, will it happen again?
struck down, but not destroyed.
At the center of the gospel story is the memory of Christ's death and resurrection. The faith holds his unjust death and glorious return to life as an underlying theme for all things, for it is a lesson that even in the gravest of circumstances, hope survives and can even thrive... but for every heart warming story of salvation that is popularized and repeated, I can't help but think of the stories that are less clean-cut and occupy the realms of ugly reality, like those of a kidnapped girl held for over 8 years in windowless, soundproofed, cell. I don't begin to even presume that I can imagine how she survived, but on some level, the feeling of being simultaneously frustrated, trapped, angry, and helpless resonates deeply with me.
struck down, but not destroyed.
If you've ever been playing a sport or sparring, there's the occasional moment when you get knocked down. Most of the time the falls are light, but the hard falls, the ones that really hurt, have a way of pounding themselves into your body and your memory.
Once upon a time (long ago), as a young student in high school, I remember a particularly intense sparring session during kendo practice. Several students including myself had been invited to visit another dojo and during a sparring session run as a mock tournament match, I got matched up with an older man, a middle-aged white guy who was a good foot taller than me, heavier by at least 80lbs, and also outranked me.
The sparring match started off normally at first, but after my opponent failed to intimidate or score a point on me during the first couple of minutes, I noticed his technique switching to a much more dirty style of fighting - things that technically aren't illegal in kendo, but are considered in bad taste (excessive shoving, especially to gain a force out; intentional stepping / kicking the opponents' feet; hitting with an excessive amount of force; intentionally making sloppy attacks to bruise an opponent rather than score a point). Despite the armor worn in kendo, it's still quite possible to sustain injuries... the guy was clearly trying to rough me up, and the sempai watching the match didn't intervene.
At some point during the middle of match, I was again given a hard shove by my opponent, but because of the angle of his attack, I failed to notice his feet tripping me at the same time. I fell backwards, still raising my sword to parry (during a tournament-style match, it's perfectly legal to attack a falling opponent unless the referee pauses the match), but unfortunately, since both hands were gripping my sword in a position to parry, there was nothing to help ease my backward fall and I hit the ground with a loud thud as my upper back, my head, and my backside (in that order) made contact with the gym's hardwood floor.
It hurt like hell. Really hurt.
I heard the sempai referee'n the match yell, "YAME" (stop), signaling a stop to the match, and for a few split seconds, I lay there on the floor in full armor, clutching my sword in my left hand and holding the back of my head in my right hand. I was tired, I was bruised, and I was sick of fighting this big, dumb, obnoxious idiot who seemed to not know any other technique than trying to shove around a kid less than half his age. In those seconds, my mind had already reasoned, It's OK to ask to stop the match. People can you see you're hurt. It's not a real tournament match, it's just sparring. Nothing's on the line. Nobody will give it a thought or even care if you decide to quit. Just quit.
I froze and instantly, I could feel something well up in my soul that just loathed the idea of quitting. My body was still hurt from the bruising of the fall, and I could feel a lump on the back of my head beginning to throb with pain... but something deeper compelled me to get back up and keep fighting, even if it was against an opponent that was bigger, older, stronger, and supposedly more skilled than me.
struck down, but not destroyed.
Fueled by something, I got back up and finished the sparring match - the next time that my opponent came lumbering through with his predictable, yet clumsy attack, I stood my ground and took just a second to smoothly roll off to my left side in clockwise pivot, like a matador letting a bull pass, while I delivered a (satisfying) strike to his head. Point scored, sparring match over... no thunderous applause, no trophies given, no riches won, nor groupies gained. Just the satisfaction of knowing that I hadn't let someone break me down. It's all I wanted, really.
Part of me always wants to keep fighting. Is it instinct? Stubborn pride? God prompting me? I have to keep conscious of that impetus to not give up or surrender. Gotta remember that.
Time to sleep.
Hey Gar, dude, I personally have never had an experience like that, except in Judo. I had only some skill in it and I stopped Judo because I found that it didn't fit my personality. Which is why I guess I have given up in a lot of things. I mean, I'm not a fighter anymore...I used to be when I was a kid, but I've become accustomed to being okay with everything.Post a Comment
Anyway, the story goes that I never liked hurting people. And I lacked a lot of initiative in my throwing and techniques. I was always reacting and never going for it. When I entered the Budokan tournament I was greatly embarrassed by the players there and some of the crowd. I quit after that, because I felt that I didn't want to embarrass my sensei anymore. The standards are high and even though my sensei probably wasn't embarrassed, I felt like I couldn't keep bringing loses to myself, my family, and club.
It's not only that, but I felt that I just didn't want to do this anymore. This was before I met Christ mind you.
Even though I still have some that giving up in me, I don't give up that easily anymore. What do I have to lose anymore? What can anyone take from me if I try? I'll never know if things will work if I don't.
That's why I'm in Japan right now. I will never know if I can teach a simple lesson unless I try. Even though things are not going the best right now, I have no intention of giving up without a fight. Even though I'm not that much of a fighter anymore.
Even though I failed two days ago, and even if things don't work out, I personally feel that failures are just as important as success. Why? If you never fail, you will never succeed. What I mean by that is that you will never see how important the successes are and you will never become better if you don't go out there and try something new. We fail, because we may not have that much experience in something, BUT we gain experience through all things...failures and success. I personally think that failures and success are only part of it and that the experience of trying to become better will make everyone better.
But don't get me wrong. Be smart about things and use your brain just like how you dodged that bullheaded higher ranked guy and hit him on the head. I don't believe that just going and doing something is always the best thing. Preparation can be useful and evaluation too.
Anyway, you know all this....why am I lecturing you? Anyway, I know that you will be a great teacher. Hang in there! You can do this! There will be doubt, but I feel that you will make a difference in many kids' lives.
Anyway, I'm glad that you have that fighting spirit in you.