Nobody Bothers Me!

Several weeks ago, my son and I went to see several friends test for their black belt in Taekwondo. On the testing floor were about 30 people of all shapes and sizes, ages and genders. I was amazed at the energy and dedication displayed. I wondered at the many hours spent in instruction and the hours spent at home practicing. It was truly inspiring. Even more, I surprised to see Jhoon Rhee arrive for the test. Considered the “Father of American Taekwondo” and now in his late 80s, I first saw him on a television commercial in the 1960s. He is a truly impressive man who teaches the Bible and believes in the human capacity to excel and overcome all obstacles. Of course, I was very impressed when I saw him do a flexibility move that three-fourths of the class could not do. I got to chat with him during the break (well, being in my cassock, I drew his attention and he was curious). I remarked about his commercial and that I remember that at the end, two cute little kids winked at the TV audience and said, “Nobody bothers me.” He laughed and said that those kids were now 50 years old. Oh no!

As I sat there watching the test, it all seemed a bit odd to me. After all, what did these people get for of all of this blood, sweat and tears? Practically, they got a piece of black cloth to wear around their middle. Now, this black cloth certainly signifies a great accomplishment, but it also signifies a rather odd arrangement. Black belts have mastered a skill, but it is a skill they have vowed to never use, except to maintain the right. I don’t mean to minimize the accomplishment at all, but on the surface, it did seem like a lot for a little. Well, thus saith the couch potato.

Then it hit me! What we need are belts for Orthodoxy. Think of all of the money that these people had spent, the hours in training, the exercising, the pain, and the fatigue – all so that they could wear colored
cloth around their middles. Then take the Orthodox – little money to give, poor in training, lax in exercising,
little focus, avoidance of pain, and only fatigued at the length of the service. By comparison, what would the Orthodox gain for their effort? Why only the Kingdom of God and life eternal, but what is that compared to a colored cloth around the middle?

Yet, maybe, if we began to measure our progress and awarded belts in the Church, things would change. Priests would need to be like Jhoon Rhee and inspire the group by instilling in their minds that we believe absolutely in the realization of their perfection. They would  let folks know that they demanded commitment and effort and perfect attendance. We would put them through difficult exercises to strengthen their hearts with spiritual discipline. We would focus their minds with prayer.  Becoming breathless from the effort, they would return for more and say that they actually enjoyed it! As Orthodox people advanced in their spiritual life, we could award them with colored cloth. Finally, the day would come when we would give them the big test, and if they passed, we could award them the Orthodox black belt. What do you think?

Though this piece is a bit of ironic humor, there is in the heart of most Orthodox priests that I know a longing for the day when people will advance in their spiritual life. At the moment, most of us are white belts, and mere beginners.  Priests hear of how they are being beaten up by the world, the flesh, and the devil. Sadly, though some of them have been white belts and have been coming to the “dojo” for a long time, they just don’t seem to be able to defend themselves or advance to the next belt level. Priests long for the day when they can award people with a different colored belt and say to them, “well done – now strive for the next level.” Most of all, we work and strive and pray for the day when we will put a black belt around them. Then they can say with blessed assurance, “No body bothers me!”

I wish I had a church filled with such black belt Orthodox warriors! (I noticed that monks wear black belts. Hmmmm…)


10 Responses to “Nobody Bothers Me!”

  1. Carolyn Says:

    I’m not really sure how I “stumbled” upon your blog but daily I thank God for it. I struggle with reading the Word and then understanding how it applies to my life today. You shed light on scripture and today’s world. Blessings to you.

  2. Matthew Says:

    I’ve went back and read your previous entries, they are all excellent and this was is no exception. I thank God for all you and priests life you, do for our faith.

  3. Chandler David Says:

    Nobody bothers me either! 😉 I remember that ad from childhood, and never expected to see it applied to spiritual warfare. Thanks!

  4. frjohn Says:

    Thank you, my friends, for your kind words. I hope that all is well with you all. God bless.

  5. Mat. Donna Farley Says:

    Fr. John, I came here via Fr. Andrew Bond’s blog. I so much enjoyed this post. My husband and I used to study Go Ju Ryu karate, which we loved. We did not advance very far but were respectful students and benefited so much from the discipline.

    Viz the belt system– I can remember my husband and some of his fellow clergy discussing the system of awards given to clergy for various numbers of years of service. One of them suggested that to be truly useful, newly-ordained priests should be loaded down with all these holy accoutrements, and as they advance in experience, the nabadrennik, skoufia, etc should be removed one at a time till the priest remains in his basic vestments. The truly accomplished warrior has no need of outward sign! 🙂

  6. The layman’s kamilavka… « incendiary Says:

    […] 25, June, 2009 by ?????? …maybe, if we began to measure our progress and awarded belts in the Church, things would change… (Source) […]

  7. Aleksander Says:

    I’ve been enjoying your writings for some time and just want to thank you for your unique way of putting things.

  8. Anna Says:

    Matthew and I just remembered to check out your blog (we forgot about it after meeting you in WV.) This is a good post for someone who lacks discipline as myself. Thank you.

  9. Airy Says:

    “We would put them through difficult exercises to strengthen their hearts with spiritual discipline”
    ))) Doesn’t it happen anyways when one starts a spiritual life? )

  10. shinie Says:

    today is sunday – the day of our lord iam an syrian orthodox christian Iam not able to go to church but how did i sumble on to this site —- go d lead me i truly believe.thank you lord .thank you Rev .fr.

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