Thursday, August 30, 2007

Hip check!

In Kung Fu, all sharp parts of the body are of potential use in combative techniques. The fists, elbows, knees and feet are obvious weapons, but even the shoulders and forehead have there place as well. Among the the lesser known weapons of the body are the hip joints. Used properly, they can create a sharp blow to an opponents thigh, the pain of which can be quite distracting, opening up opportunities for combative advantage. In addition, the projection of one's weight through such a hip blow can unbalance and opponent, also creating opportunities for other finishing blows. This technique is often summarized as simply "the hip check."

In essence, one uses their hips to "check" the opponent's movements or strikes, reversing the combat initiative. Having never developed fatty layers to my thighs up to this point in life (at 38 years old I could start any day now), hip checks have been a fluid part of my fighting style. Many a sparring partner has been the unfortunate recipient of my "hip check," launching them across the room or unkindly inflicting the torturous "Charlie-horse." In sparring with Mr. Ott, many a partner has become wary of the "hip bones of death."

How ironic then, that our recent examination of Jacob's life in Genesis 32 would reveal a crippling blow to his hip. His struggle with God left him a changed man in how he walked, how he was known by name and how he saw God's work in his life. I can identify with such physical struggles as Jacob engaged in, only instead of delivering a blow with his hip he received a blow to his hip. What would have been an advantage for me was a target on him.

Could it be that skills I consider advantages might be targeted by God to be radically changed? If God struck my hip, what would become of my fighting style? More probably, if God decided to radically change me in some way that I think works just fine now, where would that leave me? Have I so blurred identity and activity that I do not trust God to change me anyway he chooses? Do I trust God to take my "advantages" and turn them into memorials of his instruction?

The reversal seems most poetic. The calling to become a pastor is a clear "hip check" from God upon me. Flying across the room and crumbling to the floor as my left left goes numb, I stare in awe at the Lord Jesus Christ who, having now demonstrated this strange and mysterious technique to me, helps me up and explains, "Your stance was too high. You were off balance. You had that coming." I receive his soft rebuke, and pay close attention. With compassion and instructive genius he continues, "That was called the 'hip check.' Pay attention. You've entered a new phase. There's much more to learn." Rubbing the forming bruise on my left hip, I'm riveted to his every word.

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