Friday, September 22, 2006

Water, Steak, Church Greeting Time, and All the Other Things I've Hated

I don't know how to swim anymore. I realized this a couple days ago, on jumping into the deep end of a pool and swallowing a big gulp of water. As you can infer by the fact I'm typing now, I didn't drown. Apparently, I can still dog paddle a bit, and that was enough to get my coughing, sputtering self to the side of the pool.

Apparently, my childhood swimming teacher gave me a passing mark out of sheer pity.

I've long hated water. Beaches, pools, even bathtubs--I've been avoiding these for years. Recently, I decided to explore that hatred. So I took a bath, went to the beach, and jumped in a pool. Trying these activities made me realize I don't truly hate any of them. Once I got used to a watery environment, I actually enjoyed it ... in the shallow end of the pool. I discovered my true hatred is my lack of ability to swim (and my fear of drowning).

This got me thinking about other things I've hated over the years. Like steak. For years, I wouldn't touch a steak. My husband, who was raised on meat and potatoes, was going batty over the fact I'd never cook steak. One day, he took me to a steakhouse. He ordered steak. I ordered pasta. He pleaded with me to taste his dinner, and when I did--ah, heaven! My taste buds were doing the happy dance well into the next day, when I sped to the grocery store to purchase a good cut of beef. But when I cooked it that night, it didn't taste the least bit heavenly. It was more like, uh, that "other" place. We chewed for what seemed an eternity but couldn't get the stuff down our throats.

I couldn't cook steak. And that, I realized, was why I thought I hated steak.

Sadly, my hatred of steak kept my husband from having his favorite food for years. Similarly, my hatred of water kept others from enjoying it. We live walking distance from the beach and have a pool at our complex, but when friends and family have asked to go for a dip, I've responded, "Ew! The beach is dirty and the pool is full of kiddie pee! I'm not going!" And because I didn't go, my guests didn't, either. I've been a whiny baby, sad but true.

Immediately following my pool jump, I headed to church to attend a special prayer service. I attend a contemporary, high-tech church, so I was surprised when our music minister began discussing lectio divina, an ancient devotional practice which focuses on silent contemplation and repetition of a short Scripture. I loved it. After the service, it popped into my mind that someone there probably hated it. It was slow, quiet, and low-tech: everything our church typically isn't. I wondered if that person or persons might express their hatred of lectio divina to our pastor. As I walked out of the sanctuary, I thought, "If people complain, our church may never do this again. I may never get to attend a service like this again."

Before I could get angry about these imagined complainers, God flipped his mirror back at me. I've pretty regularly complained at church, in subtly subversive ways. When I don't connect with a worship song, I sometimes clamp my lips shut or even exit the church for a little coffee break. I've regularly skipped out on the greeting time because it makes me feel awkward. I'd never thought about how my actions might affect others. Maybe, at one of those times I refused to sing, the worship leader caught a glimpse of my grumpy face. Maybe the worship leader thought, "Well, this song isn't going over well. I'll scratch it off my list." And maybe someone sitting across from me was touched by that song. Maybe it was their favorite.

God's teaching me about diving in when I'm afraid or just don't understand something. I'll probably never be a good swimmer, yet I've learned I can enjoy the water. I'm learning how to cook steak. And I'm going to do my best to make worship about God, not me. Maybe God will show me something through that worship song I don't like. Maybe a visitor to our church will feel welcome if I say hello instead of running out for coffee. Maybe God's plan will move along faster if I quit demanding my way.

I'm gonna try.

To ponder:
1) Think about a time you've insisted on getting your way. How did it affect the people around you?

2) What do you hate? Why? Does hating this thing have a positive or negative affect on you? On others?

3) If your hate/dislike of something is having a negative affect on you or others, what do you need from God to work through this? What do you need from others?


Teeriffic said...

I'm glad you didn't drown, H.

Holly said...

Thankfully, the pool is only five-feet deep. But you know that still puts my breathing mechanisms under water. :D

Anonymous said...

Don't worry Holly, I stopped looking at people's faces during worship a long time ago, instead choosing to seek His face alone.

This was a great post! What a great theological thought - you know, "Loving your neighbor as yourself" enough to step out of comfort zones. It seems to me that the One we claim to follow did just that (Philippians 2:6-11).


Holly said...

Thanks, Brooke. Writing about myself is the biggest stretch because I'm hesitant to either hold myself up as an example or wear the dunce cap. I guess nobody wants to appear arrogant or foolish.

I learn so much from hearing people's stories: their experiences, triumphs and downfalls. I like real-life stories so much I made a career out of it. I figure I better be willing to share my own once in awhile.