Have you ever been in a relay race? The handoff is tricky, timing is essential, and maintaining a like pace with your partner at the crucial moment is imperative. The expectation, reaching back, palm open for the all important grasp, reminds me of marriage. Not that marriage is a race, but the space between altar and grave seems as challenging as a relay, and somewhat problematic, especially when we drop the baton, and fight over who should retrieve it. I think you get the picture. All you have to do is expand the lens just slightly to include the greater society, the human race, the one in which we all participate.
Which forces me to define the baton. I suppose it is not only the chores, work, debt, children, and dog poop, but our words, expectations, gestures, deeds, and failures. The things we intentionally or unwittingly hand off to one another.
As a religion teacher I’m constantly bombarded with scriptural references on personal ethics and proper conduct, “since there is so great a cloud (not the iCloud) of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” Hebrews 12:1. Endurance being the definitive word.
My particular encumbrance has nothing to do with endurance, and everything to do with decadence, as if a heavily seasoned salad, chopped, dressed, and sprinkled with nuts. There is nothing I enjoy more than a new book in the cue, a project in the works, a trip on the calendar. I use these treats as fuel to maintain my status quo. My motto has always been, “stay the course,” rest is just around the corner, and if not, at least I can escape in the pages of a good book. But maybe the “status quo” needs to be challenged?
I’ve learned that there are circumstances in life that we can choose to adapt or avoid, as in “the race that is set before us.“ “An overseer (woman, mother, wife, man, father, husband), then, must be above reproach, the spouse of one, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable,” [1 Timothy 3:2]. No one is all that! It is humanly impossible. We all have our go to methods when navigating the rigors of life but I am amazed at how adept we are at deceiving ourselves.
Look at all the ways we’ve learned to legitimize “running” from our responsibilities, “I have to work, travel, study, write, workout, use drugs, socialize, hide, escape, combust, tantrum, ignore, derail, disown, resent, attack, demoralize, resist, ridicule, judge, slander, avoid, withdraw, deny, demonize, bully,” and all the while we are unwittingly creating a path of eggshells that no one can transverse.
We don’t always prioritize the most important things in life. We often prioritize ourselves without even knowing that we are doing so. It takes a lot of self introspection to identify these tendencies, and even when we do, they are difficult to change.
I have often wondered if these behaviors are from our family of origin or purely matters of self preservation? It is inexcusable to be totally ignorant of the operating system you live under but clearly this is the case with many of us. I’ve always associated maturity with the ability to confront instead of avoid our responsibilities. We all know the blamers, the passive-aggressives, the good weather friends, and hopefully we’ve been able to weed them out by middle-age. But turn the microscope around and who have I become?
Most people know no other way of judging others, but by the vogue they are in, or the fortunes they have met with. Francois de La Rochefoucauld
Clawing and gnawing at my thoughts, I am desperate to ignore this sudden, and unexpected attack of conscience. How do I avert an internal civil war? “So that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,” [Philippians 2:15]. Oh good lord, this is the very baton I fling to the sidelines, and hope to never retrieve. Who can possibly be above reproach?
Have you seen all the #metoo hashtags that are appearing on social media? I usually try to avoid these trends, but the truth is I do not know a female who hasn’t experienced some sort of sexual harassment, including my daughters. I guess I’ve adopted a mind set that accepted this as normal, part of life, something to be aware of, but unavoidable nonetheless. Is that crazy?
When a person tells you that you hurt them, you don’t get to decide that you didn’t. Louis C.K.
Men also deal with harassment, but in a different form, often it is their masculinity that is challenged. Culturally men are supposed to be macho, strong, aggressive, independent, but this often leads to isolation, disillusionment, and emotionally detached males. I would venture to guess most males have experienced this to some degree or another. Their hashtag could be #tome, as in what our culture has done to emasculate men, and isolate them. In no way am I legitimizing sexual harassment, rape, or assault. This is never acceptable in any way, shape, or form.
It is not how we make mistakes, but how we correct them that define us. Rachel Wolchin
Does hurt and pain have to be the condition of life? How do we confront this situation with grace and dignity? How do you get back in the race when you’ve been severely injured? Life is too short to live behind a hashtag. Acknowledging our hurt is the first step, finding our voice the second, but every wound is unique, and some may take a long time to heal. We have many opportunities to support one another, but sometimes we hold back, because we’re afraid of disrupting the status quo. For this I am guilty. “Let us lay aside every encumbrance which so easily entangles us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” The handoff will always be tricky, but it is the expectation, reaching back, palm open that reminds me to scoop up all the disposable moments of unforgettable grace, and with sheer endurance, get on with the human race.