What interesting times we live in, spiritually speaking. The age of technology has forced a unique occurrence upon the world. No longer can world religions exist in isolated, well-managed–some would say controlled–places. The internet has interconnected religious patrons in ways that now allow “cross-breeding” (no pun intended). No longer are these patrons forced to stay inside their religious walls (despite any objections from their religious leaders). We can now read anyone’s views and this can lead to what transformative learning guru, Jack Mezirow, refers to as a disorienting dilemma.
As an adult educator, I have had the privilege (or burden, depending on how you look at it) of helping people build new understandings and/or revise many of their preconceptions about what it means to become a change agent. Oftentimes, people have had to make room for new beliefs that ran counter to what they understood before (critical reflection if you’re familiar with andragogy–adult-centered learning.). Some endured the process of letting go of old (outdated, incorrect) ideas really well while others threw a mental (sometimes emotional) tantrum and refused to move forward…the very thing they are going to try to do with their future clients. As you can imagine, it’s difficult to help others successfully modify their life when you cannot master that process yourself! Dr. James Prochaska’s pivotal book on change discusses various aspects of what makes change difficult for some and easier for others.
With these things in mind, grafting in new ideas that were not part (intentional or not) of your original teaching can be both enlightening and frightening. I remember the first time I began reading David Flusser’s, The Sage From Gallilee. I knew he was a tremendously insightful religious scholar but I wasn’t prepared to connect his genius with my (lack of) genius on the subject of Jesus’ insights and cultural background. I had to put the book down for a few weeks and imbibe material that was a little more palatable before I could appreciate and discern what Flusser wrote. [Thanks to David Bivin for being a great segue while still challenging my thoughts.] One of my favorite websites for insight into the jewish nature of Jesus can be found at www.JerusalemPerspective.com.
It’s not bad when something disorients (causing anger, sadness, confusion, etc) us because that is the special moment when we get to analyze WHY we believed what we believe as opposed to simply WHAT and HOW we believed. In the 3 stages of educational reflection, content and process reflection equate to the what and how of a particular schema. The third stage, critical reflection, tends to be the why stage and often the most difficult to analyze. For so many of my past clients and friends, major breakthroughs could NOT occur until they were willing to allow new information to reshape their perspective and that means challenging WHY they believe the way they do about a particular subject. The apostle Peter went through this when we had a vision 3 times that told him it was ok to “break the rules” about Jews and Gentiles (in this case, clean and unclean animals).
I grew up in a structured religious environment–which i’m very thankful for, by the way. Like many evangelical believers, the foundation of our faith was unconsciously focused around sin management. With so many possible doctrines to choose from, it can be overwhelming to figure out which principles garner greater importance (Love God with All of your being and ability) and which ones merit more of a minor focus (Strengthen your feeble knees and weak arms, lol). Even today I’m learning to rewire and unlearn previous notions because I realize to what extent some of my prior beliefs were hindering my spiritual insights.
I share this because I want to be as transparent to my readers as possible. I don’t consider myself immune to any of the struggles and difficulties that I may propose solutions to. As spiritual martial artists, I hope to provide a forum where dudes across the world can strengthen and encourage each other to “fight the good fight” together. So many of the martial arts movies I grew up watching in junior high and high school (SHAW BROTHERS!) had the same theme: Young man needs an older, wiser mentor to teach him/her how to cope with the conflicts life can bring and in the meantime becomes an amazing leader!
While I’m bridging the gap between spirituality and martial arts, I’ll bring up one particular type of warrior that always intrigued me. No, i’m not talking about Chuck Norris clones. I’m going to discuss ninjas.
So about Ninjas…these warriors were trained to be more than just an average agent of warfare (in this case, Ninjutsu). They were covert (think hidden, sneaky or stealth) agents trained to be unorthodox (out of the box thinkers based on the objective) at solving problems. I made a tribute to ninjas a few years ago when we had a deep snow in Dallas (deep snow and Dallas are most certainly paradoxical.). My beautiful, culinary-gifted wife made a snow-woman tribute to Julia Childs. I, on the other hand, decided that we needed a more intimidating character in the backyard to deter possible thieves from entering our domain. Her character probably made potential thieves want to come inside a have some warm soup and crackers.
Ninjas never had an easy road when it came to their training and development. One of my favorite books on the subject, True Path Of The Ninja (by Anthony Cummins and Otake Risuke), describes this very process. Here’s an excerpt about this translation of a 17th century manual,
The information and insights found in this translation are invaluable for understanding the skills, techniques and mentality of the historical ninja. Whether it involved tips for surviving in the wild, advice on intelligence-gathering techniques, or methods for creating chaos in the enemy camp, the True Path of the Ninja unveils secrets long lost. Along with its practical applications, this book is an important guide to the mental discipline that a ninja must have to ensure success in accomplishing their mission.
In some ways, the approach to empowering disciples rather than the short-sighted and incomplete approach of just “getting people saved” requires us to think outside of the box when it comes to connecting with people. We most certainly have a task to accomplish like all ninjas do. It’s just going to require some focused training and mentorship from people who have experience being a “light unto the world” and who bear much fruit in terms of transforming the lives of people they encounter.
In closing, I just want to clarify a few things. My conversations about spirituality take the same mindset. When it comes to my relationship with God, there is NO more important subject than how I can nurture and protect the relationship that God extends to His creation. We were intended to be known, loved and provided for and likewise, we were intended to respond back in utter devotion and commitment to our creator. As long as a theological system causes love for God and my brother to abound, I want to engage. I hope our musings on this site lead you to reflect on how much you mean to Jesus and just how empowering the Holy Spirit can be in releasing your gifts into this world.