Take a Knee

“How we walk with the broken speaks louder than how we sit with the great.” Bill Bennot

My son was playing football a couple of years ago for a city league recreational team. It was a great learning experience for him and for myself as well. He’s kinda like me, he’s a gentle human, sincerely kind and wouldn’t hurt a fly. He’s known as a “gentle giant” among his classmates and I wondered how he would react to how aggressively the other kids played football. Some of the kids in his league had played for 3 plus years and kind of had a head start on him. I never played football save for a few backyard two hand touch games because I was too afraid I would get hurt. I was always a basketball player! However, he jumped right in and did pretty well considering his lack of experience. He didn’t get a ton of playing time but that didn’t diffuse his passion for the game or his ability to cheer on his team mates! We both learned a lot that year.

That year I learned my son was far tougher and meaner(kind of) than I’d ever thought he could be. I was amazed because I knew it wasn’t natural or easy for him but he stuck to it and persevered for the whole season! I was never a “rough house” kind of dad so I just was unsure how he’d adjust to the aggressiveness that the game of football requires but adjust he did! I remember attending his practices and hearing the coach yell at the players for not measuring up, not giving enough effort…that’s something I would take personally but he took the criticism and ran with it and used it to improve his game. I was and am a proud dad. He doesn’t play football anymore but I can tell that season had a lasting impact on his self confidence and his ability to adjust to tough situations.

There was one thing more than anything else I took away from that season by watching Bowie’s team. It was a ritual they had when someone was injured. It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced in sports or anywhere really! When one of the members if their team or the opposing teams players was injured during a game, our team took their helmets off and went down on one knee and stopped EVERYTHING until the player was able to walk again or was carried off. As they were ushered off the field, the injured player was met with applause from all the players and spectators. Wow, how incredible, what a statement!! That ritual spoke volumes to me and I began to wonder why we as regular human beings don’t do the same thing when someone is “injured” in life. It seems we are far too late busy and far less compassionate as a society when someone falls down in some way…not just physically falls down but like when life falls apart for someone(a divorce, a relapse into old behavior, a death in the family, cancer, a moral failure, loss of a job..etc) why don’t we “take a knee” and see how we can serve them instead of being so self focused that we just step over them or worse ON THEM while we’re on our way to our destination….cuz ya know where we are going is far more important than the people we pass on the way, right? (Sarcasm).

If you have experience with helping those in need you might think “I know, I know but that person made that poor decision(s) that landed them in the spot their in….It’s their own fault, that’s what they deserve. They made their bed, now they should lay in it. How will they learn from their mistakes if they don’t reap the consequences? After all God helps those who help themselves, right?”(pretty sure that’s NOWHERE in the Bible.) So then, what can we do to help those who have fallen? How do we “take a knee” like those youth league football players did?

Well, Jesus lives out several examples of this that can help us learn how to react to broken and injured people(emotionally, physically or however). In John Chapter 7 there’s an account of a woman who is caught in adultery, I mean literally caught screwing someone who wasn’t her husband….That may not translate as powerfully today because adultery is more commonplace and kind of accepted now but then it was a shameful, catastrophic life event that ended with a woman being stoned to death for her actions…(side note, nothing is mentioned of what happens to the male which is suspect.) Suffice it to say the woman was caught in the act of adultery and the religious leaders threw her out on the street and were about to carry out the execution and that’s when Jesus steps in…after the fall, after the failure, after the moral collapse…Jesus steps in. 

The religious leaders basically said “get out of the way, she’s set to be stoned to death, it is the law.” Jesus replies, “ok then, I will step away and let you throw your stones. So, go ahead, kill her…in fact I see you’re so eager to kill her…she deserves it so go ahead. Whoever has never sinned go ahead and throw a rock at this woman’s head and satisfy the law.” Then, Jesus takes a knee. He gets between the religious leaders and the fallen woman and begins to write something in the ground. We don’t know what he wrote but some speculate it was the secret sins of the religious leaders..but whatever it was, spoke for itself. One by one they dropped their rocks to the ground and walked away.

Jesus literally gets in the middle of this woman’s mess with her! You can imagine the outrage. It wasn’t fair, she broke the rules and now she must pay, right? Jesus then asks the woman. “Where are the people who accuse you?” But they’re all gone. She said “there aren’t any…” then he said to her, “I don’t condemn you either.” Then he helps her get on the right path. He tells her basically if you don’t want to be in this predicament again, don’t do that anymore.” Jesus didn’t give her a lecture about morality, and no doubt he could, or the law but simply extended grace to the fallen woman. He took a knee and helped her up, giving her encouragement all along.

“How’s that fair?” You might ask. I will simply say that grace is not fair, It’s unmerited, undeserved favor… I mean there’s no way to earn it…just accept it. “I know, but where’s the justice for those who have been wronged in scenarios like the woman caught in adultery? Why would anyone help a lady who had destroyed her life so recklessly with a series of bad decisions? Who would put themselves right in the middle of such a mess, risking his own life as he stood between her and her accusers determined to stone her to death? Who would do such a selflessly reckless act?” Jesus, Jesus did then and he does now. Now, if Jesus gave us this example and many others like it then what are we supposed to do with it?

Well this part won’t be popular and not everyone will agree but this is just the way that God has presented it to me. It might make some sense to you or you might be apalled. You might still be fighting it and wrestling with it trying to figure out a balance of what showing grace vs. enabling someone. The truth is if we live this example out of taking a knee, getting in someone’s mess and helping them up while cheerleading them is very hard, it can get ugly and messy, sometimes dangerous and it’s downright inconvenient for most of us self centered creatures. After all, It’s totally irrational to put yourself in harms-way to help prevent a disaster for someone else, right? Nope, that’s not the example with which Jesus leaves us.

It’s so refreshing but also challenging when I meet believers and even some non-believers that are silently practicing this in their own lives and the lives of those around them. They’re able to create an attractive atmosphere for spiritual growth and healing and, unless you ask them about it, they don’t say anything about it. In recovery we say they’re living a life of attraction, not promotion. They seem to never brag or boast or even complain about this idea of serving others cuz that’s what God has done for us. They’re very aware of the grace they’ve been given and freely attempt to extend that same kind of grace to others.

So, let’s back to the football field for a moment. I think back to all the players taking a knee and stopping the game for a moment to show respect and concern for an injured player. This is the very kind of attitude I want to have with people who become “injured” in life. I want to be full of reverence, grace, compassion and acknowledge their hurt because I want them to know they’re not alone. I’ll get in the mess with them and do my best to help them up and cheer them on as they attempt to get back up. I’m prompted to do this because it has been done for me. I’m fully aware that this will cost me some time, money, energy etc but that’s the kind of legacy I want to leave, that’s the stuff that really matters. So, today I will look for opportunities to pause everything and take a knee for someone who has fallen.

Sick of Myself

Alright, it has been a hot minute since I’ve written anything here..or anywhere.  I’ve been busy with people, places and things that consumed my entire being.  I have felt disconnected from God and from my spirituality for quite some time.  I’ve felt like I’ve been part of an Exodus.   Life has led me to some interesting situations that have brought out sides of me I didn’t even know existed, both good and bad.  I’ve been in the desert and in the dark save for a few fruitful and memorable moments.  My prayers have been feeble at best and I have gotten to a place where it’s not that I don’t believe in God…it’s more like “what’s the use?.”  It’s scary to even write that stuff, much less to have been living it out. I’ve made a few foxhole prayers and closet bargains with God that sounded like “get me outta here and I swear I’ll never do it again.”  My prayers have been selfish, mostly because I’ve been only in survival mode and consumed with the most powerful drug that’s ever existed, that’s ME! I’ve been seeking some relief from…………. myself.

I mean it sounds awful to say but “me” is my first thought in the morning and my last thought at the end of the day.  I’ve had people come in and out of my life that I claim to have “loved” but I am not capable of truly loving anyone when I’m so consumed with me.  I have wondered if anyone else had ever felt this extreme spiritual swing as extreme. Then, for some reason, it occurred to me to re-read the story of the prodigal son also known as “The Parable of the Two Sons.” in Luke Chapter 15.  This time though instead of focusing on the obviously wayward son(who’s life becomes a train-wreck) I reread the story of the prodigal son paying close attention to the son that DID NOT sell his inheritance and suffer unbelievable desolation and desperation, at his own bidding. Remember,  It got so bad for the prodigal son that he ended up literally with the pigs thinking that their food looked good for him to eat.  Then, he “comes to his senses” and remembers what a great deal he had being with the father. So, he resolutely decided to go home to his dad…good choice!

This got me thinking about this one time when I was a kid, it had gotten to be Christmas time.  Christmas was always eventful around our house but it never overshadowed the reason for Christmas, which were the presents, right?(kidding)  My grandparents always spoiled us grandkids and I was excited to see what they had gotten me this particular year.  My sister and I bugged the crap out of our mother and we kept asking her for “hints” about what our big gifts were.  I had been told by my grandparents on a number of occasions that I was the “best” “most favored” grandchild, so I of course thought I deserved the biggest present, right?  (I think they told my sister the same thing)  So, we wore my mom down and finally she began to give us hints about the presents.  I was so excited to see what mine was!  I knew what I had asked for and I felt sure my grandparents were gonna come through.  Then, my mom dropped the most devastating bomb on me. We were asking “who has the bigger present?” And she said “your sisters is bigger.”  I was floored, after all, I was the favorite grandchild.  I remember I started crying and ran to my room and threw myself on the bed hysterically in a sort of tantrum. My heart was focused solely on me and what I wanted.

What my little brain couldn’t comprehend was that a bigger present did not necessarily mean better.  My mom said later that my sisters is a bigger present but mine was more expensive(I missed this part).  That statement didn’t phase me.  I was solely focused on the fact that my grandparents had betrayed me and gotten my sister a bigger present.  Well, little did I know……

Christmas morning came and my sister and I wandered in too see what Santa and crew had left us.  The first thing I see underneath the tree was a HUGE, ornate dollhouse, which is exactly what she’s been asking for.  I cautiously approached the tree to find a little gift underneath the tree with my name on it.  It was small, a lot smaller than my sisters but I ripped open the package with no regard, almost enraged at the fact that my sisters present was bigger.  When I opened the present it revealed another box with a type of lid with a hinge.  I opened it up and it was exactly what I was asking for but even better, it was a 24k gold calculator watch, the grandest of any calculator watches I’d ever seen.  I was overjoyed and very satisfied with the outcome of Christmas morning…but I let some of the “hints” of our presents destroy my joy and cause a resentment against my grandparents and my sister.  I in fact did get the better present in regard to what I asked for but I was deflated thinking my grandparents had cheated me somehow.

So, back to the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15.  Upon re-examining the story I came to a different understanding this time.  I, being one myself, celebrated the grace that the wayward son had received from his father, even after all he had done.  This time though I felt like I could identify with the heart of his brother who had stayed close to the father the whole time.  The story goes on to say that after the prodigal son comes home, the father throws him a huge party and when the brother realizes what is going he becomes resentful and refuses to go in and celebrate his brothers return to the family.  The “good” brother approaches the father and basically says “What the hell dad?  I’ve never left your side or screwed up my life and you never threw me any kind of party”. The father replies with something like “since you’ve always been with me, everything I have had has been at your disposal.”  That’s kinda how that story leaves you hanging but it paints enough of a picture that I can now see myself as either son.  The wayward son’s heart is evident at the beginning of the story, he only cares about himself and what he wants(me me me me), which leads him to ruin.  However the other sons heart is very much the same, full of resentment toward his father and brother and he acts as if they have both betrayed him.  The attitude and the heart of both brothers at some point is clearly self focused.

This “self-focused” heart is one I can relate to most certainly.  I think back to my heart and attitude at Christmas time all these many years later and see I’ve always been this way, at least as long as I can remember. It’s easy to plug myself into the role of the prodigal son BUT it’s equally as easy to see myself as the other brother now full of resentment, full of selfish and self seeking motives.  I’m working daily to try to eradicate this toxic attitude of my heart.  Sometimes I find that the quickest and surest ways to adjust my attitude is to help someone else in need. In recovery we have a saying…lots of sayings actually BUT this one says “we can only keep what we have(sobriety, sanity) if we give it away. It’s then that I find myself free of that old heavy, gross attitude.  I’m learning this to be a lifelong process of soul working and re-working done by something/someone outside of myself. It’s odd but the painful season I described to you in the beginning, well it’s that kind of pain that pushes me into the spiritual realm or a connection with God.(Surely there’s an easier way 🙂 The Good Book says he started a good work in me and he’s gonna finish it.  That’s a great promise but gosh it’s been a bumpy ride but I believe the result is gonna be less of “me me me.” As singer Matthew Sweet once so eloquently said “I’m sick of myself but when I look at you, something is beautiful and true.”