Friday, December 16, 2011

The Art of Shadow Boxing

The first time I ever heard this term . . . I'm sorry to say . . . was being applied to myself (regrettably).  To be honest, I didn't know what it meant for two reasons.

The first reason is simply I didn't understand what the term was referring to in general. Secondly, I didn't know what it was referring to in my own personal life.

This line "Mike you go though life shadowboxing" I eventually realized, was spot-on.  I've said before, the only thing that is more disturbing than someone criticizing you falsely . . . is someone criticizing you correctly.

This letter was written by my previous missionary boss, Curt.  It was in the middle of an extremely difficult time in our lives, living in a slum in Cairo, alone and cut off our our missionary group and with some sick children.

What led to this statement, was that I had just exploded at the boss, via letter. He was like the Wizard of Oz, never seen face to face and I couldn't talk to him. But he was dead right about me.  This was at the event horizon, that thin line between what once was, but to never to be again.

Up until that point, I was the ideal evangelical, even more so than my boss.  I had just finished ten years in a Navigator training center.  I wanted to be perfect, and I thought I was almost there.  Part of perfection facade was the belief that I was never angry, smiled all the time and thanked Jesus all the time.

But I had just exploded at my boss.  How do you go from no anger to instant rage?  You don't.  I had been pissed at him for a couple of years . . . and the piss-y-ness had been growing and growing. I hated the man in the deep places of my real heart.  But on the surface, I was shadow-boxing . . . smiles, thanking Jesus, talking about my wonderful boss.

This was at the very start of my journey for honesty.  I was a very dishonest person.  I'm still not completely honest but I strive to be. The striving is what is different, not the arriving. Honestly is not well received in Evangelical circles.  My old pastor would have loved the old Mike, smiles and praises to Jesus constantly.

I may have told this story before, but a few years ago a old college friend was corresponding with me. She was the campus president of a Christian ministry. He husband was leader of the Evangelical community. They, like us, have five children, all seemingly perfect on the surface. Star athletes, in all kinds of Christian ministries and etc. But one day, completely out of context, I got this strange letter from her.  She voiced how much she hated her husband. That in their private world they fight all the time about money.  She despised him for his porn addiction, she hated him for his womanizing and the list went on and on.  But what concerned me the most that she finished that e-mail by saying that she is in a constant thought about either trying to murder him or kill herself.

Okay, this isn't about  her, but the principle.  I was very concerned.  I didn't know what to say, but I e-mailed her about it . . . that e-mail was met with silence.  I e-mailed again . . . silence.  I begged her to respond, to get into therapy.  She was so silent, that I thought her e-mail wasn't working. But then, one day, she picked up e-mailing me and our other college friends just like nothing had happened.  She would say things about how happy she was, that her husband was her hero and a real man of God and etc.

I always feel puzzled by these things.  It seems to be all around me.  I know of terrible things going on in people's lives, yet, you have to pretend you don't know. You have to live in the Platonic (on the cave wall) type of shadows.  You have to pretend goodness and smile.  Oh, if only I could be the shadow boxer I once was, how well life would be.  The avoidance of conflict. The life of peace, even though that peace would be only shadow thick. But once again I'm faced with this dilemma of the fact if God is really there, then He is a God of truth. If truth is good, then pretending is false. I should seek truth. But that doesn't work out in reality.

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