Nakedness, Tough Guys and False Expectations

The tough guys never bothered me in Junior High School; that is something you should understand right from the first. Yet even though they didn’t bother me, they bothered everyone else, unless you were one of my friends. I was what one of my teachers called “an early bloomer” which I took to be a reference to the fact that when I was 12 years old, I was six feet tall and under my mother’s strict orders to shave every day.

That particular year was the year that my classmates and I went from Elementary School to Junior High School, and we had been told by everyone that bad things happen in Junior High School. In Junior High School, you went from being the oldest in the school to the youngest, and the oldest in the school, the ninth-graders loved to pick on the seventh-graders. We would be bullied, badgered, thrown into trash cans and beat up periodically, and the girls would laugh at us. We would be required to take PE (physical education) and in PE everybody was required to shower together before you could leave. Oh yes, and all of the classes would be harder and move faster, and you might not be smart enough to make it through.

Yet these are the horror stories we heard from teachers; the ones we heard from older kids were truly terrifying. If the truth were to be told, I wasn’t all that concerned about the ninth-graders; I knew that I was bigger and stronger than most (all as it turned out) and that I was an excellent athlete, so I figured I could probably deal with any eventuality in dealing with the tough guys. I wasn’t worried about the classes being harder; after all I was often teased for being a “brainiac”. Being laughed at by girls was something I was used to… except in dodgeball where they begged for mercy, which was always granted. The only thing that really concerned me about going to Junior High School was the showering part; that would be very awkward for me.

The funny thing about that is that I used to skinny dip with my friends quite often in our old neighborhood, but two years previously we had moved to a new neighborhood, to a house that had no pool, on a street that had no kids my age. This was a new development in that I was, at the time, isolated to a certain extent; I had to ride a bus to school, and I had no friends near my house, so no skinny dipping for over two years now. Yet the real problem was that everything about me had changed since then, and while I would never had admitted it at the time, I felt like something of a freak. I wondered if I was the only one. Some of my classmates’ voices were beginning to change by then, but I had finished with all of that over a year ago, and none of my friends were even thinking about shaving… was I going to have to beat people up in the showers for making smart remarks about… changes? Talk about awkward!

Let’s remember friends that these are the thoughts and insecurities of a 12-year-old…

As it turned out, when school started that September, I was right about some things, and wrong about others: I was right about the ninth-graders; not one of them ever gave me any trouble, and I actually became quite accepted in their midst. I was right about the classes; easy peasy. I was also right about the tough guys in general; no problems with them. In fact, they ended up being quite friendly. The girls still laughed, and since there was no dodgeball after Elementary School, I had no way to keep it under control, so I had to endure their peculiar form of torment and torture. My mother told that they did it because they liked me, and that’s when I knew that she had lost all semblance of rational thought.

The showering part however, I was completely wrong about. On the very first day, I noticed something very interesting: There were no tough guys in the showers. They might have been what toady is called “bullies” before the shower, and after the shower, but never in the shower, for in the shower they didn’t have their tough guy pants, and their tough guy boots and shirts; no, there they were just like everyone else. Oh yes, it turned out that I wasn’t that much of a freak after all, I was just the tallest. What had seemed so uncomfortable, so awkward, was not nearly as scary as I had thought it would be.

Junior High School was a cakewalk.

The more I think about it, the more I must conclude that nakedness is the most brilliant metaphor of all time, for it so richly illustrates what we go through in building relationships; with friends and co-workers, family, spouses and most of all with God Himself. More to the point, it illustrates the process of growing in community with other believers.

I fully realize that like moving on to Junior High School, this seems difficult, but also like Junior High School, it isn’t as difficult as we might expect. Oh I know that there are church communities in which many are waiting for the chance to point fingers of accusation at others, as they hide behind their attractive masks of phony righteousness; I’ve had plenty of people tell me that they find themselves in such a location. Each time I hear such things I can’t help but wonder why they would remain there, if it is all that bad.

Of course, if we are in the habit of being naked before God, being naked before God in community really isn’t as much of a challenge as it might sound when you really think about it. Next time, I’ll continue along this line of thinking; see you then!

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About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
This entry was posted in Christian Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Nakedness, Tough Guys and False Expectations

  1. paulfg says:

    Genius! Kind and loving and god-full genius!!

  2. Steve B says:

    9th Graders picked on 7th Graders? What a bunch of pussies (cats) . Never happened in Australian schools cause then those particular 9th graders would have been beaten to a pulp by the 12th graders. You punch horizontally or up but never down.

  3. paulfg says:

    Reblogged this on Church Set Free and commented:
    “The showering part however, I was completely wrong about. On the very first day, I noticed something very interesting: There were no tough guys in the showers. They might have been what toady is called “bullies” before the shower, and after the shower, but never in the shower, for in the shower they didn’t have their tough guy pants, and their tough guy boots and shirts; no, there they were just like everyone else. Oh yes, it turned out that I wasn’t that much of a freak after all, I was just the tallest. What had seemed so uncomfortable, so awkward, was not nearly as scary as I had thought it would be.”

    Don will never reblog this. But Don is getting naked. He has been for some time now. And that word (and all my squirming) is becoming something completely different. Innocent. Enlightening. Inspiring. Beautiful.

    There is no discomfort here. Not if I am being honest. Just another pathway to God, just another pathway to Love without Condition – but boy, what a wonderfully sneaky and disarming pathway this is!

    Why not head across to Don’s place and join the conversation?

  4. Matt Brumage says:

    It seems to end mid-sentence with “church communities”. Am I missing the rest of it for some reason? Anyway, good insight! And you get right at some of what I was talking about Wednesday. Shame, especially before God, is rarely based on reality, but rather on imagination. And I’m no psychologist, but I suspect imagination is driven by a need for drama and excitement to feed our egos. Which, if true, would really make it a lousy basis for making life decisions and emotion-control.

    • Don Merritt says:

      I think you’re on the right track there Matt!

      And thank you for mentioning that sentence break! Yikes, I’ll say there is something missing, sadly due to blogger’s incompetence… I just added the rest to the post. Here it is for you:

      “in which many are waiting for the chance to point fingers of accusation at others, as they hide behind their attractive masks of phony righteousness; I’ve had plenty of people tell me that they find themselves in such a location. Each time I hear such things I can’t help but wonder why they would remain there, if it is all that bad.
      Of course, if we are in the habit of being naked before God, being naked before God in community really isn’t as much of a challenge as it might sound when you really think about it. Next time, I’ll continue along this line of thinking; see you then!”

  5. Julie says:

    Very enjoyable. “… and that’s when I knew that she had lost all semblance of rational thought.” ha!

  6. Don, I like this post so very much, though I had to take myself out of my own junior high experience which was the opposite of yours. Now, decades later, and with the knowledge that God loves me unconditionally, I can metaphorically stand naked before anyone.

    • Don Merritt says:

      As you might imagine, i don’t often quote FDR 🙂 but when he said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” He was right about quite a few things.

  7. Pingback: Nakedness, Tough Guys and False Expectations | Simple Faith

  8. Pingback: Where is the government strategy to prevent violence against women? | From guestwriters

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