Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Agonists, Instead

I know I took a risk last week using "protagonist" as the category to name our part in this mission and ministry God is calling us to share.  Really, God -- and especially God as revealed in the life, death and ressurrection of Jesus of nazareth -- is the protagonist.

I was working through Brian McLaren's thoughts about our "making the road by walking," and I was hoping to motivate us to keep moving even when we are dissuaded by obligation or pedantry, by standards and forms that seem to reduce our lives to the most common denominators of one size fits all reports and records.

The risk is important to note because we have to be honest about the other roles we play in this pilgrimage with God.

Sometimes we are just agonists, struggling no matter whose bidding we follow.  Life does that and we know it when we say things like "getting old ain't for sissies."  Most of us are able to at least be grateful to be IN the struggle.  Like many of us say when asked "how are you doing?"  I thank God for getting me up this morning.  Or when others share their insights or epiphanies from learning to live in the world in the present and not some fictionalized past or future.

These and the other "agonists" who are the Church of the Advent are not IN agony at all times. Indeed most of us are on more of a steady march than a limping trudge.  Yes there are plenty of challenges but there are also plenty of joys and lots of neither in between.

The root word "agon" comes through Latin from Greek and originally meant contest or competition.
So before we break it down too much let me share this.  I am competitive.  I love competing and loved it even more when I was younger.

In high school I was more jock than prep or nerd. Until I broke my leg in a game my junior year, football was my prefered fall sport.  Basketball got me through the winter, then spring was a balancing between track and golf.  In college I competed for Furman's Cross-Country and Track & Field teams all over the southeast and beyond from Gainesville, FL to College Park MD. to Columbus OH.  I have the scar tissue and bad knees to prove that I trained hard and raced when I shouldn't have run at all.

I learned something during all those laps on the track.  I learned that the competition in running is different than in most other sports like football, baseball, tennis.  The other sports I loved were the ones where my opponents were more fellow agonists, and not antagonists.  Their efforts and my efforts did not obstruct or limit each others' but promoted the whole to a better result.  We ran in the same direction and the faster runners helped us all be faster runners.

So maybe instead of holy protagonists -- I'm feeling that's Jesus' role -- we should think more in terms of those struggles as a shared striving WITH each other.

There are plenty of difficulties along the way and we needn't create extra obstacles for each other.  Instead we can share the loads and keep each other waking up and help each other see the light we see and continue to "make the road."

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