“How is it someone may forgive so quickly?” Considering the circumstances surrounding the events at Mother Emanuel last Wednesday evening, the questioner asks a legitimate, if not critical, question.
Her question did not come without personal experience. At one time in her life she faced the need to forgive. And, if life experience is consistent, there will be other times where she will face the need again.
It All Began One Year Ago This Week
“Dad, I am going to sign up for a Bootcamp.” I thought for a moment after Tommie made the remark. “Well, O.K. I will sign up too.” Then it was, “What did I just agree to?”
I recall when I graduated from high school hoping one day I would gain weight. Be careful of your hopes. Entering my third decade on planet earth it happened. And did it ever. Thirty pounds in ninety days. The culprit? Less stress from that last degree showed up when the suits on Sunday morning began to tighten.
My exercise regimen came only in pick-up basketball games in the park or at the local high school gym. You would not find me running for running’s sake. Not. A. Chance. Weight room? I teased the weight room with my presence in college. Not. Interested.
Gradually we built into our lives habits and practices that without any serious consideration initiated the slow fulfillment of my own hopes. One does not think about the effect on the body in their 30’s and even 40’s. Then the knees begin to ache. Two knee scopes ended pick-up basketball just before my fifth decade. Exercise came in mowing the yard. Did I mention I have a riding mower?
The prospect of knee replacement before my sixth decade meant the need to do something. I learned that for every pound lost it removed 4 pounds of stress across the knee joint. One study suggested a 10 pound loss meant between 30-60 pounds of stress across the knee.
Habits and practices would need to change in order to effect an overall positive on the aging knees. A bootcamp seemed like the way to begin.
New Habits and Practices Mean Something
Each summer, with longer days, I always lost a few pounds. Heading into our first Bootcamp I had already lost about 5 pounds. During the six week challenge I dropped 11+ pounds and won a cash prize. I won first place in the Men’s Category. Well, I did not receive the prize as I had a prior commitment to attend on the evening the awards were presented. Cash was not the incentive. But, I would not have said, “No thanks.”
What did we do? We worked out three days a week very early in the morning. And, we were encouraged to make adjustments to our eating habits. I heard Louis C.K. remark that if you grew up in the 1970’s you knew about McDonald’s. It was and is an institution. Only recently, with the rise of obesity in America, has anyone questioned the institution that is the Big Mac. Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun! How many of you remember the accompanying music to that jingle?
Institutions comes with jingles. Though I have not had a Big Mac since the introduction of the Quarter Pounder, I remember it like it was yesterday. That is what habits and practices do, they form us and shape us and inform our decisions.
We not only worked out but we took a greater inventory of what we ate and when we ate it. We used myfitnesspal and the encouragement of coaches. We learned to develop an opposition to systems that we had been largely unaware. We took up defiant action against all the signals and impulses in the form of commercials that enticed us to eat less healthy.
If the studies are correct, I have reduced the stress across my knees by 76 pounds. That is 76 pounds each step. If I have a 3 foot stride, that would mean a reduction of 133,760 in a jogged mile! Going back to the point where I weighed the most, that would mean a reduction of stress across my knees of 225,280 pounds over a mile jog.
If only I knew that before. I could have assaulted those systems, those accompanying habits and patterns, and the result might have been no orthopedic surgeries to my knees. I would not have the prospect of knee replacement before my sixth decade to consider.
Maybe all of the steps will mean I can extend the life of the knees with which I came into he world a bit longer. If so, it will mean more time running and playing with three grandsons. Every time Tommie worries that Max might wear me out, I remind her of my metabolic age, 12, and say, “I am fine.” Had these decisions not been made I would have been glad to spend time with them watching one of their favorite movies, not chasing them down the hallways of our offices.
We Are Never Too Old
Today we began our next eight week challenge. It also signaled an opportunity to present awards for those who finished the previous challenge.
Until the last two challenges I had been just about the only male in the group. Now there are five of us. Right next to me on the back row is Dick. He won the last challenge in the Men’s Category. He also won today. He did not just win, he rocked it.
During this last six weeks Dick suffered a set back. His knees began to bother him and he missed the better part of two weeks. I have wondered how old Dick might be. Here is what we learned today. Dick is 71. He lost the most weight, gained the most muscle, and dropped his metabolic age to 14!
If you consider the years and habits that may have influenced Dick and spurred him to participate in these early morning challenges, it should serve as inspiration to anyone, age does not matter.
Sometimes we think age is a limitation. Nope. Not. At. All.
This is important if you are to make the leap to forgiveness.
What We Do In Our Bodies Matter
Forgiveness. It begins with a different system, different habits and practices. When we learn a system of retribution we then develop habits and practices that flow out of that aim. When we learn a system of punishment as justice, we forge policies and practices that achieve that vision. When we learn a system of fear that an action of another marks us indelibly, we forge patterns of thinking about relationships that represent the protection of our self-image.
The families that spoke during the bond hearing for Dylan Storm Roof operated from a different system. They knew un-forgiveness for the hurt they felt would harm them more. A change in how we view things is easy when the application of that new system requires little of us. But, when the circumstances are beyond imaginable it takes a deeply rooted commitment to a different way in order to speak the words, “I forgive you.”
Maybe you miss the corollary in the bit about exercise and better eating. Maybe you picked it up.
I am often asked how we might think about the issues of race in our world. Writing this I wondered if we could approximate the battle with obesity. It seems to me weight gain is slow and methodical. It blinds us to what is going on every time we add four pounds of stress across our knees, not to mention our internal organs. We do not stop and think of the ways our decisions are informed by a particular understanding of our bodies.
Isn’t the matter of race for the majority of us, white Americans, the same? When we hear the phrase systemic injustices we look confused, at least most of us. We wonder how it is that this may be said of our culture in 2015. But, the reality is the very ways racism affects us is the way we participate in the habits and patterns that do not show up unless of course we fly a Confederate Flag or use the N-word to describe a person of color. No, more often than not, we do not see it for we are not looking for it.
How is it someone may forgive so quickly? Fortitude and persistence. And, the recognition of their own experience of forgiveness.
One cannot hear their cries of forgiveness, their pleas for mercy, and their exhortation that love, not hate, wins without a referent to their understanding of God’s design and dream of a world where forgiveness is practiced, early and often.
They press on. And, so should we.
Image Credit – Knees
Image Credit – myfitnesspal
Image Credit – Victims