Thursday, August 9, 2012

A One on One Duel

About two weeks ago, Jesus sent me to fencing classes. I thought I was going to get in shape post-pregnancy. Last week I finished my second 90 minute lecture on fencing--my instructor is one of those "detail" people who insist his beginner class understand umpire hand signals before holding a foil in their hands. In each class so far, I've don't less than five minutes of my beloved leg work (Advance, Advance, Retreat!).

In the middle of rolling my eyes in bored student agony, I started to ask Jesus "exactly why I'm here."

I'm there for  "warrior training."

(At which point, I'd like to whine that my Carmelite husband current God homework is to learn how to relax and be nourished by Beauty while holding a fishing pole--and boy would I really like that assignment. But a small voice in my heart responds that I've eaten far to many scones, and visited far too many Art Museums in my youth. Romance and I don't need to be introduced to each other--it's time for me become a warrior.)

Spiritual Fencing! That metaphor has been on my mind a lot. Here are two insights. "Love is patient, Love is kind" from St. Paul has also been described as a "shield of patience" and a "sword of kindness." I also think of this now as "advancing" or "retreating." During an annoying situation (isn't that what we mothers tend to swim in) I can "retreat" with patience. No matter how determined an attack on my soul is launched, if I move myself out of the way with patience, my opponent sword only finds empty air.

At the same time, kindness is sort of a challenging assertive action. You've got to really go after a person. This is opposite the sort of vague "tell us if you need anything" is wimpy charity. If you want to do something kind for a tired spouse and chronically unhappy teenager, or panicked NICU Mom, you need to commit yourself to a long lunge of effort.

The other thing I'm learning is to break down my bad days into one on one duels. The fencing "strip" is controlled warfare. You only face on opponent at a time, and there is a shin strip of floor where sword play is in bounds. Before I'd have a "bad day" and it was just a midst of chaos.

Now I try to break it apart into individual interactions. First, I have a challenging interaction with an extended family member, the I've got to wrestle with my feelings about our medical debt, then onto the "sympathy impaired" children's librarian. It helps to think "new opponent, new match" instead of letting my stressful experience snowball together.

Today I was in the middle of a long, hot errand run with five tired children. I started having strained communication with a new librarian. I told myself "I'm going to win this one". That was a little prayer that went right up to God in heaven. Five minutes later, we were shaking hands and trading first names. That was a successful match because I was totally exhausted, there was no one ounce of energy in me, and I was already deep in the hole between 10 overdue books and a screaming toddler to boot.

A warrior lives for battle.

Pray for us Teresa Benedicta of the Cross!

2 comments:

Sarah said...

Interesting idea - kindness is a sort of challenging assertive action where you have to 'go after' a person, or seek them out, and the "tell us if you need anything" is a wimpy charity. I have a different experience, and it's probably because I'm in a different state of life, but I really don't like the type of "charity" that waltzes in and decides "what you need" and then proceeds to do it for you. I've had too many experiences with well-meaning folks who have no clue what I actually need...and insist on doing what, again, they think I need or want. I prefer to find out what it is people actually need/want, and do that - or wait until they ask for something because then I know I am filling a void and actually helping out. I suppose there is still an "active" element...

Abigail said...

I agree that "I know best what you need" is a irritating false sense of charity.

I'm talking about having someone firmly in your prayer life and asking Jesus "what does he or she need." For example, I'm really having trouble with my seven year old son. I need to extend more patience with him--but I also need to actively seek out more times when I can extend him greater kindness. So far, I've been really dropping everything and actively listening to him when he wants to give me long details about Spiderman toys, etc.

I guess this metaphor works better if its a specific person you are having trouble loving. Patience and kindness work together (with prayer of course) to heal a strained relationship.