BFF: It's ok man. Just be yourself.
Me: You think I should be all of me? I was thinking I should start off small and... you know... Albanize over time.
BFF: Yes. That's better.
Part 4 is the bull ring. Things aren't over once the run is complete. They shut the doors. This is both to keep anybody else from coming in, as well as keep anybody who is in from going out. The stands are filled with people who bought tickets to watch the bull run on the big screen tv, and to watch what was about to happen next.
The runners stand in the middle of the ring. There are hundreds of them. Some manage to climb the wall and jump out of the ring, while others hold on to the wall for dear life. The remaining runners stay in the center.
One at a time, a young bull is released into the ring. They are there for the runners to "play" with; To pretend to be matadors and dodge out of the way of a charging bull. Keep in mind that a young bull is still 800 lbs. Even though the horns are taped up to prevent goring, you can still get hurt pretty badly by these bulls.
Now, I have no stories to tell you about what happened next. Not on facebook anyways. My mom will read them. And there are some things that moms just don't want (or need) to know about. No, these are the stories that can only be told face to face and be passed along by word of mouth. Because no matter how brave a person is, there comes a time when that person will fear the wrath of his mom much more than 12 running bulls.
I was running.
It wasn't an all out sprint but it wasn't leisurely either. Shouting filled my ears as I heard the cow bells grow closer. The person behind me had a hand on me. Partially to keep his balance, partially to push me forward.
"I can't go any faster," I thought. There's no where to go. There are people in front of me. Part of me thought about swatting his hand away, for fear of him knocking me down. I was too busy staying upright to make the attempt.
Suddenly, the person in front of me starts to fall down. Instantly, I see a pile up of people at his feet. I high stepped over and around them. I can't afford to fall down. I can't afford be stopped here. I wasn't even concerned about getting trampled at this point. I was more focused on making it into the bull ring.
I regained my balance and continued the run. The hand was no longer on my shoulder, but I knew another person will soon take his spot.
I never looked back.
Suddenly, the cow bells were upon us. The people who were in the center pushed towards the side. I, who was left center, was moved closer to the wall. I looked to my right. Mighty bulls were rumbling past me. It brought to mind the earth shaking created by a herd of bison on the great plains. I was in awe. I was about 2 meters to the side of the bulls, so I felt reasonably secure that I was safe. But those were just the ones to my side. There is no telling where the bulls were behind me.
To my right, I saw someone go down under a bull. He was probably trampled. I told myself he will probably be ok.
Finally, the last bull of the pack moved ahead of me. Wanting to stay with them and not get left behind, I pushed towards center. "How many bulls just passed me? Was that all of them? Were there others far behind?" I didn't hear cow bells, so I took the risk and moved towards center.
As we came out of the street into the open air, I saw the bull ring in front of me. Almost there. I watched the door to make sure it wasn't closing. I needed to get inside. Just another 20 meters to go.
Suddenly, I tripped on another pile of people. The person behind me fell on top of me. I was on one hand and two feet, down by football terms. "Should I stay down as the rules suggest? Or should I keep going?" I quickly pushed back upright as one of the police officers tried to push me back down.
I stumbled to the gate, crashing into a wall as I dodged around bodies.
I ran through the tunnel, hoping to not fall again.
I made it through the other side.
The entire ring was filled with cheers from the stands. Other runners were in the center of the ring with me, raising their hands in victory. I raised my arms with them and shouted for joy.
I wrote my bull run experience in four parts. The second part was the most interesting to me. Out of the entire run, this was the most intense, and certainly the most heart pounding. At no other time was the fear more palpable than this. The tension of waiting along with the decision to stand my ground as others rushed past me increased to a crescendo at this point, breaking only when I turned and began to run. I hope that this tidbit will help to share with you the experience I had.
"Run! They're coming!"
And just like that, people everywhere exploded in a running frenzy.
I ran about 20 meters before I started to slow down. At 30, I stopped completely. I turned around to look. People continued to run by me. I thought to myself, I didn't hear any rockets yet. (The first rocket signifies that the door has been opened. The second signifies that all the bulls have left their pens). I then asked myself, was I too far away to hear them?
I looked back to where I previously stood. There were still a few people standing there who had not moved an inch. "Crap. Another false alarm." This was shredding at my already exposed nerves.
Like a fish swimming upstream, I jogged back to my previous position while other people were still running past me. I asked one of the guys still standing there what time it was in Spanish.
"One minuto" he told me.
The tension in the air was thick. Many people were jittery. Some of the other runners had realised it was a false alarm and stopped as well. They did not come back. Others continued to run anyways.
Then I heard it. A faint, but clear explosion. The crowd in the balconies surrounding us let up a great roar. Seconds later, a second explosion was heard.
People began to run again. All around me, people were yelling and running down the path.
I stood my ground. Several others stood their ground with me. I refused to run too early. I refused to be one of the first to enter the bull ring. I refused to compromise this experience by running before the bulls were even near me. I needed to see them.
More and more people began to pick up and run. The running crowd grew thicker. People started pushing past me. I was an obstacle to them. If I was a fish swimming upstream before, now I was a rock withstanding the crashing tides of the ocean.
I heard the people up in the balconies let up a great roar again. "The bulls must have just come around dead man's corner and made it onto my street," I thought. I heard the roar in the balconies slowly make its way up from the end of the street towards me, like a wave of sound.
"They getting closer. It is almost time," I thought.
By now, there were so many people running around me that I couldn't see anything. I was blind. I didn't see anyone standing still anymore. Everyone was running.
"How far away were the bulls?"
I started to jump up as high as I could. I saw people who had climbed up walls and were now hanging onto the second floor balcony. They were waiting for the bulls to pass before they started running. I saw a wall of people coming at me, thicker than the rest. They were about 50 feet away. I couldn't see the bulls. Were they behind them or in front of them? I kept jumping.
All around me, it was madness as people were desperately running past me, shoving me around in the process. Shouting. Fear and panic were painted on their faces. Hundreds of people have already run by.
40 feet away.
"Nerves of steel. Nerves of steel." I kept telling myself. I breathed deeply and forced myself to stay. It dawned on me that the bulls are running faster than that wall of people, and when the bulls pierce through, they would be right upon me, standing right in the center of the street. "I need to move soon."
30 feet away.
Seconds passed. Then I heard it. The sound of cow bells.
I turned around and began to run.
As opposed to a short term perspective, which could be exemplified by statements of "Oh, I found a quarter, it's fate that I should have this and buy a gumball from the candy machine!" In my more cynical moments, I would characterize this invocation of fate as weakness or feeblemindedness. In my more open minded moments, I would characterize this as living out the ideals of fate to its full potential, and adhering to it with the same tenacity a Bible thumping southern grandma would to her faith in an all-powerful, all-knowing sovereign God.
But that is neither here nor there.
This is less a blog entry than it is a thought dump. I hope to come back again to this post once these thoughts have been distilled and I can rewrite this with more direction and purpose.
Ah, purpose. There it is. Aren't they all synonyms when used in a long term perspective? Fate, destiny, calling, purpose… it's all the same. It doesn't matter if you're young or old, male or female, married or unmarried, Christian or not. The desire for more, a meaning and purpose, is there.
I wonder if it is inherent. Is this built in? Are we designed this way? My friend says no. In a recent conversation, he suggested that the idea of purpose is a recent development. That as recently as three generations ago, the main purpose in life for a man was to make a living and to provide for his family. It wasn't until recently that we wanted to do more than that.
But I counter with this: We are now living in a culture wealthy enough to have a reasonable expectation of providing for our family and more. Our wealth may now obligate us to use our abundance for the good of others. Since we have now gained for ourselves the stability and safety that we seek, shouldn't we now help others to gain and achieve the same?
Friend: Some people, when they think they have discovered their calling, they stop trying. They simply wait for it all to happen, as if it were expected. Entitled.
Me: Hmm. That's interesting. I never thought of it that way. The way I have always seen it was that as soon as I figure out what my calling is, I'd put everything I have into it. I would do little to nothing else. I would do everything I can to fulfill that calling to the best of my ability.
It's taken me a week of sitting on that exchange, but I've come to the realization that neither response is particularly healthy or balanced.
Me: Don't waste your life. That's a compelling title for a book.
Friend: Yes. John Piper writes some pretty good, straight to the point books.
Me: Have you read it?
Friend: No, I think I stopped somewhere towards the middle
Me: Yeah, I was the same way with Desiring God. I couldn't even get past the first chapter.
… Lots of dialogue about many things on the topic of calling and fear of wasting my life.
Me: Have you ever heard of the perspective of your first calling and second calling? (Ironically, a quick google search brought up these two results, which with some similarities can be drawn: Second Calling and Half Time)
Me: Well, it's entirely possible that I just made it all up. Anyways, it's the idea that your first calling is to be a disciple of Christ. To follow Him and grow in that. And your second calling is what you do with yourself once you have become a Christian. How to live out the rest of your days.
And I've been wrestling with this for a long time. Every new season of my life, as I transition out of something I've been doing into the unknown. Every time I see other people pursue their dream and seemingly make large strides towards progress, I wrestle with this. And inevitably, I always come back to Micah 6:8… "And what has the Lord required of you, oh man? But to act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."
Me: And I think in my most centered of moments, when I am most centered in God and trusting completely in Him, I can look at that verse and think to myself, "yes. This is enough." It's because I know that in every season of my life, every day of my life, I have brought Christ with me. I have brought Living Waters and all that I have learned with me. I know that I bear fruit in all that I do. And it is enough. It is enough to be in Christ and to live out my life well. My first calling is sufficient.
But when I am not centered. When I am watching my peers blow by me and go on to be and do great things, I start to wonder. I doubt. I fear. I become afraid that I'm wasting my life. What was previously enough suddenly isn't enough. And that drives me to want to do more. To be more. To be great. No. Not necessarily to be great, because that's just about me. It's more about… doing great things. To live a life worth living and to not waste it. It's the drivenness that alerts me to something being wrong. I know this logically. But my heart. The fear. It's real.
Friend: It sounds like the first calling is about being. And the second calling about doing. You are right to say that the first calling is the most important, because out of the being comes the doing. Most people don't get that. They start with the doing in order to become. That's where they get lost, as they are working towards a false sense of being and a false sense of self. I think if you are committed to your first calling of being a disciple, God will be faithful to reveal to you your second calling of doing.
Many more things were said, and many more things were processed, but I am a little too tired to thought dump anymore. I hope to revisit this during my vacation.
As you can imagine, it is extremely difficult for me to make a choice between Plan B and [Vacation Plans]. You are well aware that Plan B is 'so very close to my heart' but then when I think about it further, I realize that you ought to lose a lot to gain some. Therefore, after a lot of brain racking, with extreme sadness, I opt for [Vacation Plans]. I choose the difficult option of 'living my remaining days' rather than the far easier and convenient option of 'dying a most satisying death.'
While Easter is a popular holiday and may be the most important Christian holiday (next to Christmas), many of us have a pretty weak understanding of what it is all about. For example, Easter often sneaks up on us: we may not even think of it until the annual church brunch is announced. ...
Lent is the antidote to this oversight. In the Western churches (of the Protestant variety) we don't participate in Lent, historically speaking. We are more comfortable with the joy and celebration of Easter than with the darkness that preceded it. But Lent is a chance to remember the dark before the dawn, the sin that sent Jesus to the cross. In the Orthodox Church, Lent is called the season of Bright Sadness, because it is a time of both celebration and mourning.
But you may well ask: why dwell on the darkness at all? After all, Jesus' work is done. Death has been conquered, Christ is victorious! The cross has answered it all; why should we be sad?
Before Christ, the world called out to God (in the words of David, King of Israel),
"How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever? Will your jealous wrath burn like fire? " (Psalm 79.5)
Easter is the once-for-all-time answer to this question. Jesus took ourplace on the cross to appease God's righteous anger. He went alone to be punished: separated from God and deserted by his friends. The drama of how this happened is the story of Lent. ... Before the Resurrection comes crucifixion; before crucifixion comes prosecution; before prosecution comes betrayal, doubt, fear, rebellion, and sin.
Lent helps us experience our part in the Passion (suffering) of Jesus. We face our humanity during Lent: we learn that sin still dwells in us, that we still carry darkness. We learn that we, like his disciples, would likely have fallen asleep as Jesus prayed for deliverance in the garden, and, also, that we would likely have denied knowing him as he silently accepted his death sentence.
By the time I got back to the hotel, I realized that I had made the right choice. Becoming a recluse was never a real option; if I had chosen it, it would have been born out of a root of bitterness and selfishness. Like a child stomping off to his room after being punished and pausing to say "I hate you all and I'm never coming out again," before he closes the door, reclusion was a pouty way of saying "I'm angry that I can't have what I want." Which, of course, misses the entire point of Lent entirely.
Today, as my hands strayed towards seeking out what I had given up, I checked my heart and saw my heart motives; I am stressed. I am tired. I am hurting. And I am looking for release, soothing, comfort and shelter. And I sought those things in the comfort of my friends. And I'm not saying that is a bad thing; Certainly our God created us for community and to not be alone. But in that moment, I was alerted to the condition of my heart and the depth of my need. I saw my weakness and remembered my Jehovah Jireh. Instead of reaching out to friends through cyber space, I reached out to my Abba Father. Instead of putting out a cry for help to my friends, I whispered a prayer to my Yeshua.
Being aware of my heart condition is not something I have always had. Sadly, I must confess that it was my lack of immaturity that allowed this to go on for so long. Impulsively, I would act outwardly what I was feeling internally, before I even knew how my heart was feeling. Self control is another subject entirely; it isn't what I'm getting at here. I'm suggesting that knowing what I'm feeling allows me to address the needs of my heart in the most appropriate way when those needs arise.
Choosing to give and let go has helped me to see how much more I really have.
Last week, I talked about narcissism and how that arises as a response to being hurt significantly. We talked about how we come to a deep dissatisfaction with ourselves and see ourselves as flawed. That we don't like who we are, and are terrified that anyone would ever come to know us. We are so filled with shame and discontent that we choose to create a false image of who we want to be. And we show that image to others. We want so hard to believe that we are this false image, (and in wanting others to believe it too), that we become enslaved to this image. We maintain this image with an inordinate amount of energy, strength, and dedication. It becomes an idol in our lives.
To an extent, we all do this. To varying degrees, each of us have invested in an image we want to present to others. But this is not the only response we take when we are faced with self-resentment and rejection. There is a flip side of this coin.
When we are unable to attain a sense of wholeness on our own; when we realize that maintaining this false image is too much to bear, we begin to look outwards for a savior. Even when we've been hurt by outside people before and afraid to trust again, we hang on to a hope that maybe there is someone out there whom we can believe in. Maybe there is someone out there who is Mr. Right or Miss Right for us. It doesn't matter if we're Christian or non-Christian, this is a sin we commonly share. We look to the other to fill our needs, to strengthen us where we lack, and to give us a sense of wholeness that we could not, and can not attain for ourselves.