There are many references to the “path,” “way,” and “course” of wisdom in Proverbs 15, and verse 21 is the one that struck me this morning. “Folly delights a man who lacks judgment, but a man of understanding keeps a straight course.” It reminds me that the wrong way feels delightful. I have to keep to the path regardless of how distracting the temptations on the road’s shoulder become. One step in front of the other, one day at a time, eyes front, toward the goal!

Deuteronomy 23 has a list of people who were not permitted into the sacred assembly of the LORD, some because of ceremonial uncleanness, others because they belonged to a nation that cursed God and Israel. Verses 7 and 8 taught me a lesson in forgiveness, amends, and acceptance. Israel, freed from slavery in Egypt, was told, “Do not abhor an Egyptian, because you lived as an alien in his country. The third generation of children born to them may enter the assembly of the LORD.” Now, if Israel can welcome the family of their own slave-drivers into their sacred assembly, I guess I can look a little deeper at forgiving, welcoming, and extending myself more toward those with whom I hold a minor grudge.

Today was a mixed day of good news and stressful letting go. I had some issues in my extended family that seemed to resolve themselves today. They presented me with opportunity to serve my family over the weekend (at the expense of my Saturday men’s meeting) and kept a few of us wound pretty tight. I had opportunity to help at least one person today, then I took off early to go to my Orthopedic Surgeon’s office. I got the all-clear from him. I will not need surgery on my shoulder. These things just take a little time – maybe six weeks before I’m back to full strength. Until then, I am allowed to do and lift whatever I feel like I can comfortably do and lift. Nice. Huh? The mixture came when I came to a conclusion concerning my participation in the Martial Arts.

I know that my way is not everyone’s way, and that my interpretation, understanding, and conclusions are not for anyone but me. Having given that disclaimer, this is my journal, and I need to write out some of how this came about. I have already described my conscientious objection to bowing to the image of the founder of the discipline, and have heard the many responses about that not being worship. Still, factoring in the time, energy, effort, mental discipline, and money that I have been pouring into this discipline, I cannot in good conscience call it anything else. How do I define my worship of God Himself? In giving Him my time, energy, effort, mental and spiritual discipline, service, and even money. Sure, the aspect of praise (positive verbal communication) may be missing, but not really, when discussion about the sport is promotional, defensive, or even encouraging. But, even as the Scriptures of the last few days have cried out repeatedly, “Follow the true way,” “Keep a straight path,” “Avoid distraction,” the my-way addict in my brain has still been justifying and rationalizing my participation in the sport. …Until this afternoon! I was listening to one of my regular podcasts, a minister I have enjoyed for years, when God, through this minister, pointed out to me that any trust in my own “self-defensiveness” is futile and counterproductive to trusting God for my defense. This is a brief summary of how it went, but suffice it to say that I have become willing to let go of the sport, but struggling to let go of the excitement and the enjoyment it was. I feel as though I had something taken away and that, like any loss tends to, has me feeling a little wounded and bruised. Most of me is glad it took so little to get my attention. God has had to really bash me in the past to get messages across.

I am looking forward to spending my time, energy, and effort after perfecting my spiritual nature, and to nurturing those around me, through developing my connection to my Higher Power, and through encouraging others to do the same. This seems a much better use of myself than practicing for a physical altercation that, God willing, will never occur. After all, “He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.” (Proverbs 28:26)