I am glad I’ve had some uncomfortable experiences around people who are quite opposite from me, in thoughts, looks, language, and beliefs. I don’t always feel grateful for the discomfort in these situations, but when I look back on the last few years of my life, I think they’ve been crucial in helping me become more of the person I’d like to be. I know the “real world” isn’t just like the life I had in Palm Harbor or Asheville, surrounded by people who love me and are a lot like me.
I think it’s been great to share a cabin with a man who believes he has visions of experiences with past wives from past lives and that he actually was Jesus Christ during his crucifixion. I’ve enjoyed getting to know people who believe most answers can be found through astrology and that tonight’s full moon will be the “fiercest” in ages. It’s been weirdly good working on a maintenance crew with big burly guys who tell horrendously crude jokes. All of this has happened in the last three days.
I’m currently doing help exchange at a retreat center on Orcas Island. The hot tubs and sauna overlook the bay and it’s surreally beautiful. Clothing is optional for this area of the resort. For me, it’s different to walk into a sauna and see people casually talking about healthcare while they are completely naked. It’s eye opening. I closed my eyes.
I grew up Southern Baptist. I am never, ever just casually naked. I was so impressed with all of these people’s confidence to walk around, and even stretch in this vastly open space, with all kinds of eyes on them.
A man with hair longer than mine walked in to the spa, he closed his eyes as he held the hands of the Buddha statue near the entrance. He sighed loudly. Then he took off his clothes and got in the hot tub next to the one I was in. He got the strainer from the wall and started cleaning the already very clean hot tub. His body was more out of the water than in the water, and he made about twenty-five rounds with the strainer, as if putting on a real show.
I started to stifle a giggle. I started to look at everything except him. I saw a sign near the door to the sauna. It stated:
Between the opposites lies the path.
I haven’t stopped thinking about this since.
I have found this to be true in my life. I’ve loved getting to know the opposites. It’s been life-changing to have a deep love for people that I would’ve wanted to judge before. To sit and listen and actually care, to know that the Jesus I claim to love and follow would be doing the same. All of the time. Jesus never had time to be out protesting the things he was against. He was not all about rules. He was out loving and listening and loving the people he was listening to. I love his example. I wish I lived by it more.
It’s been important to know that people find things about me weird and opposite. It’s been important for me to be surrounded by people who find Christians crazy and absurd and irrational. When we can learn about each other and find a mutual respect, I think we’ve found the path. And it’s beautiful. It’s like a rocky, twisty trail full of switchbacks with high elevation gain that leads to the most stunning vista. It’s exhilarating.