After learning to fall, the next lesson I learned in Judo is how to get close.
In western culture, we consider getting close as rude. We value personal space in our society. In the U.S., we value personal space very highly.
In eastern cultures, it is less important. Getting in someone’s personal space is not uncommon. This is a major psychological hurdle Judo players must overcome in Judo to begin throwing opponents.
The same is true of my Christian walk, as it is essential to get close to others to be effective in their lives.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” – Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV
This poses a big problem for me. I have never been close to anyone. I build walls around my heart to guard it from pain and hurt. This also keeps it from growing in love and eventually hardens it against God and His message.
“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” – Hebrews 3:12-13 ESV
So long as I keep everyone at arms length, I may feel safe. I am not positioned to be effective in the lives of others. Eventually, employing strength to avoid pain only ends up hurting myself .
One Judo class, we were practicing a throw called Uchi Mata. It is one of the more dangerous throws. It is difficult to throw me, and falling at over 250lbs really isn’t my thing. As my Judo partner began the steps for this throw, he turned fast. Instead of staying anchored as I expected, I flew around him, landing with a sickening thud. At first, it just felt like a hard fall. As I tried to stand up, I realized my ankle was in severe pain. A couple of instructors helped me off and iced my ankle. While sitting there watching Judo class, embarrassment replaced the pain. I betrayed my training because I was too proud to trust my partner to safely throw me. My ankle still hurts at times and reminds me of this pride I carried.
It is the same pride I exhibit when I forget God’s Grace has covered my sin. It is Him guiding me to who He wants me to become. This pride leads me to actions (or non-actions) that embarrass me in front of God.
Being close to others who are in Christ keeps me accountable and keeps my pride in check. Seeing others fall reminds me of my failures. Displaying God’s grace and love reminds me God loves me and has given me grace. This is why being close to others is important.
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” – Colossians 3:12-14 ESV