Monday, July 30, 2012

    Peaceful, Loving and Kind

     The 2012 London Olympics. So many amazing competitors with such strength and speed and grace and precision and determination. And commitment. You can't watch the Games and not help but think of all the years of training that these athletes have gone through preparing for such a time as this. All the sacrifices. The singleminded focus. The total dedication. The amazing stewardship of their God given abilities.

    We've already seen athletes who were expected to reign supreme falter. By agonizing hundredths of points or shockingly wider margins. With cameras zoomed in on their faces to catch every nuance of reaction to their less than stellar scores. And then the interviews begin. Can I just say that the last thing I would want immediately following an event that I'd just poured every ounce of my very being into but failed to achieve what I'd set out to do, is someone shoving a microphone in my face and asking, "SO, how ARE you feeling right now?"

    Really? Do you really want to know?

    I'm just as amazed at the athletes' ability to handle this pressure as I am at their physical performances. I know it's all part of the deal and they know it's all part of the deal, but really, how do you think they're feeling when they lose? "Yippee! Now I get to do this all again for four more years to see if I can come back and possibly be humiliated before the world once again?? Thank you so much for revealing just how very mortified I am right now and for multiplying the agony of my defeat before this audience of millions."

    And yet, while their eyes and faces betray the depth of the emotion they are dealing with, they find a way to use words that say the right thing, that they've been coached to say in the unfortunate event that they fall short of their goal. Not the completely naked truth of their full feelings but words that are appropriate for this time and place. That they were hoping for a quicker time but it didn't happen. That they are disappointed but happy for their teammate. That the other team simply did better. Red rimmed eyes, a quiver in the voice, tears that erupt despite their attempt to save them for the safety of backstage, the locker room, or their pillow. And our hearts break for them. We know there is so much more that there aren't saying. We can't even begin to imagine how this must feel yet we almost wouldn't blame them if they sat right down on the side of the pool or the side of the bench or the side of the mat and sobbed. Hope deferred makes the heart sick. Indeed.

    Grace under pressure. The words we use in the midst of emotionally charged situations continues to be one of our biggest challenges. I've spent the last week reading and watching and thinking about the "Chick - Fil - A Issue" and struggled with this idea of how to speak the truth in love about anything, not just a polarizing discussion like this.  And realizing that the concept of  agreeing to disagree is not even on so many people's radar, let alone in their rule book. Which makes it even more important that we continue to work hard at balancing our conversations, our comments, our Facebook posts and tweets and blogs and dinner table discussions with graciousness. For the code of conduct seems to be continually spiraling downward when it comes to what is appropriate for our behavior, our attitudes, our words. It's quite a demanding balancing act.

     While watching the women's gymnastics last night, I flashed back to Cathy Rigby - cute little blonde ponytails atop a powerhouse in a long sleeved red leo - on the balance beam at the '68 Olympics in Mexico. Remember? OK, some of you can't but that's OK. For the record I remember Olga Korbut standing on the top bar of the unevens and flipping back around to catch that same bar with her hands and continue her routine in '72! Who does things like that??? Obviously she did and probably thousands of other girls since when the judges or coaches weren't watching!! But I digress . . . .  That beam measures 4.10 feet high, 16 feet long and 4 inches wide. FOUR INCHES! It's called a Balance Beam for a reason. Most of us can't even imagine walking the length of the balance beam without falling off, let alone performing all the amazing feats these young women bring to the Games.

     And while most of us are not called to manage a double twist walk over hand spring kind of thing on a 4 inch wide beam, balancing walking the Walk and talking the Talk can certainly feel like it. Behind every issue we find people. People created and loved more than we can ever begin to imagine by our amazing God. People who feel as passionately about various issues as we do. A spectrum of people from complete strangers to the closest of friends, from the most distant of cousins on the other side of the world to those we share our hearth and heart with. People who we interact with daily whether in a single interchange at the toll booth, repeated visits to the grocery store check out line, or over the backyard fence for ten years. People we work closely with day in and day out or people we wait alongside of for our children to return from school or dance or karate or swimming or band or rehearsals or practice. People we serve on committees with, people we've reconnected with on Facebook, people we worship with, people we live with. People who all matter to God. People who we can alienate from Him in an instant by making our unfounded desire to prove that our side trumps theirs more important than the very people forming that differing opinion, belief, or lifestyle.

      The motto, the theme, the overriding atmosphere created by our wonderful headmaster, Richard Johnson, at the school where I began my teaching career way back when was three words - Peaceful, Loving and Kind. It was written on the walls of every classroom, used to not only mediate playground disputes but create the foundation and focus for everything we said and did. Easy to memorize? Of course. Easy to live out? Hardly . . . for community is living and breathing, full of every day learning and growing. People. And learning to live within the framework of God's call to be peaceful, loving and kind with someone we get along with is challenging enough, let alone with those we don't particularly like or with whom we have stark differences of opinion.

      Yes, there are absolutes. Yes, they are the very foundation of my faith. Yes, I am called to live a life that follows the Truth of God and His Word and to not be ashamed of it. And if I am honest I know I will also run into plenty of people that I will be tempted to brush aside or worse yet treat with disdain simply because their ideas or their opinions appear to be different, annoying or even ridiculous. But therein lies the challenge, for the very Word of God also asks those who have accepted His call to follow Him to do two things - love God and love your neighbor as yourself. And somehow in this my-way-or-the-highway charged, four inch wide culture we find ourselves in, we really need to ask God to give us the strength, the grace, the love to balance living and speaking His Truth and loving our neighbor. Harder than a high flying, 2 1/2 twist, inward, backward, hang on with your toes for dear life manuever? Sure feels that way - but I'm trusting my Coach will keep teaching me how to stay on the beam in such a way that an audience of one or many more will see Him and His love for them in all its greater than Olympic sized glory.






  1. Thank you for this wise, strong reminder. I love your image of a "four inch wide culture" - and the thought that we are living for that audience of one. So many have given up any conversation at all because it's so hard in this culture, and others are anything but "peaceful, loving, and kind." But those are three great words to carry with us.

  2. So well said and worth remembering. I love the motto and the version of it in Matthew we are all called to live by. Lately I've been meditating on one of my favorite passages in Philippians 4..."whatever is true...noble...right...pure...lovely...admirable...think on these things." It seems fitting for the days in which we live and so much of our public (and private) discourse does not meet this standard. So glad you started blogging!

  3. Amazing post Joyce. I can learn from this. Keep the good work sister!