I started a series yesterday about what my new involvement with Jiu Jitsu is teaches me about Church. You can find that introduction post here, if you are interested.
I’ve been taking Jiu Jitsu lessons for about a month now and I’m beginning to notice how I bruise so randomly and in random places. For instance, I was putting on my shirt this morning and realized I have a bruise (that appears to be fading) on the back of my tricep. I have scratch marks on my neck routinely from sparing sessions. I remember one day my Office Manager Donna commented on whether or not I had a black eye. All in all, something is sore every, single day. I no longer have to ask, “How did that bruise get there?”
I did not grow up participating in a contact sport of this nature. I played hockey for several years and was not the smashing-others-into-the-boards type of hockey player. I’m not a tough guy. I have never had anyone else want to prove that they were tough by picking out the toughest guy and the room and choosing me as their candidate. No one in the history of my 32 years has said, “I need to prove that I am tough… where is Joe Skillen? He’ll give me a go.”
Therefore, my body is undergoing a significant adjustment to even practice this “gentle art.” I hope (and pray) that over the next several months, my body will adjust to this physical activity or that I will continue to barely survive.
One of the essential ideas of the Church is that we are a community committed to Jesus and to one another. Because we are prone to go at this life alone, adjusting to life together in a church community is a lot like the transformation process that my body is going through. Learning to live with (and to love) the different personality quirks and proclivities of church people is a process. We get bruises and scratches, aches and pains along the way. That type of adjustment is not tolerable by all, so instead of sticking with it, people leave churches, and some never return.
I wish church life did not have these types of experiences. But I also know that to envision any relationship without those moments where we need to heal, repair, forgive, and to confess is impossible. Communal hazards are not just in churches, they are everywhere. I understand, though, that we have higher expectations for healthier community because it is the church, after all.
But, much like my own body’s transformation, we need to allow for our own hearts, minds, egos, preferences to undergo significant change as we enjoy the beautiful environment called the church. Peace, after all, is not the absence of conflict, but the process of stewarding relationships that are in repair.