The Chronicles of Resistance

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You hear a word, see a color or come across a concept that, for you, is not part of your routine and suddenly you notice you can’t stop noticing it. It is everywhere: on everyone’s lips; on the morning news; now in the story you’ve read ten times before; at the airport on a woman’s handbag.

So many people are wearing orange lately. Has it always been like this? Am I just now starting to notice?

It’s ubiquitous. Perhaps serendipitous. Carl Jung called it synchronicity.  Everyday psychology calls it selective attention or perceptual vigilance. It sounds like you should seek professional help when you call it the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.

Resistance has been the theme running through my life for the past few months and I don’t expect it to cease, now that I’m on to it. When Baader-Meinhof strikes, someone is trying to tell you something and you better take note. It showed up first as a word, then as a concept, then a physical fact and now as a growing appreciation for just how beneficial it can be. It’s been fun trying to spot it—á la Where’s Waldo—but in the fun are those Emmausian epiphanies I’m hoping to catch before the moment is over.

“Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

It was writ large in my mind through music first, from Muse’s 2009 album The Resistance, on which the title track declares “love is our resistance” against forces trying to split apart lovers. Hmmm … love is resistance. When limiting or otherwise getting in the way of a force, how often am I resisting in love and with love?

Music often lays down the backing track for my life, but I didn’t expect an encounter with the cleverly goofy band Everybody Was In The French Resistance … Now to keep pressing the concept of resisting upon me. No songs on their only album to-date specifically address resistance as a topic, but their band’s mission is resistance. As they say, they are “correcting the mistakes of pop songs past” by telling the points-of-view of other characters in some of our more well-known pop songs. Sometimes speaking up for a point-of-view is an act of resistance.

A few months ago in the dead of winter, I went into the gym with more dedication than ever before.  About that time I was also reading Adam Gopnik’s accounts of raising his young family in New York City.  He observed the differences between the Running Fathers who jog around Central Park and the Motionless Mothers who sit to get fit in the city’s yoga studios. While turning the two groups into metaphors for a Life Lesson, he tells of a yoga master’s disdain toward all those who are bouncing, dancing and jogging for their health. “All that matters to the body (and, so the hidden corollary runs, to the soul, as well) is resistance. That is what the body is made to learn from, and all that it is made to learn from.” Gopnik remarked, “The theory is impeccable, or at least persuasive. Muscles learn only from failure, like French schoolchildren, and they can be made to fail only by repeated stress slowly applied.” Hmmm … here I am in the gym a few days a week, choosing to stress my body and make resistance situations for it, and then I go home to relax with a book only to read about exactly what I just did.

By spring, I started wondering if anything in life was NOT a picture of le resistance? Buds bursting open to keep trees alive. Young robins learning to harness and even push back against an invisible, necessary power swirling all around them. Our 10-year old child asserting herself more and more, with seemingly more dramatic crises per day than even Shakespeare would spread across five acts. The muddle at church on a Sunday morning; the spousal missteps; the way writing-as-work leads to revising, editing and back to more writing.

I’ve got to get this all down. It’s too prevalent to ignore anymore and I think it’s doing a good work in me. I’m aware, too, that I resist. As a phenomenon, it isn’t always something that comes to you; you can create it. You can use it for good or use it to block a growth process intended to transform you more into His likeness. In some cases, I am still resisting and that’s not a good thing. One way to resist can be to force disagreements away from you–“clearing the room of argument” as Bono is fond of saying–by both pushing others away and encouraging only the like-minded to stick around. A room emptied of argument arrests the creative energy needed for the lasting works of art, politics and love that will change the world.

It’s because of the power and pervasiveness of it that I am starting The Chronicles of Resistance here for not just me, but for anyone who can contribute an entry. I bet I’m not the only one.

Andrew, The Proprietor, and I met in Xenia, Ohio. I was his driver. He invited me into The Rabbit Room and I’m happy to be here and am encouraged by what’s going on. (Greetings, fellow warren-dwellers.) I’ll write on other things too under different headings, but for these chronicles, I wonder: How is resistance helping or hindering you in your acts of worship, fellowship, art, family and life? And if you haven’t thought about it lately, just keep trying to not think about it.


9 Comments

  1. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Scott,

    Great words. I’ve often said that the devil is our resistance training. If resistance is always taken rightly (that is, with a faith-attitude of eventually overcoming), it makes us stronger. Thus faith is built on doubt. Virtue and character are built on temptation, trials.

    This paradigm, this world, is built on opposites. With children, without their parents often using the opposing forces of consequences for actions, they become spoiled, weak adults. Spiritually we have to learn the same thing; God uses the devil as a lackey for this purpose. He is our faith-trainer.

    The resistance only helps us get stronger when we push back in faith. When we succumb, and lay down on the job, we get more and more weak.

    Resistance has sometimes kept me from doing what I am here for. It has often hindered me in songwriting, or singing, or playing. If I lay down against the stream of negativity and don’t stand up in faith (with the resulting action of actually sitting to write a song, or sing, or practice my instruments), I get weaker and weaker. Muscles we don’t use get flabby; talents we don’t use repeatedly and regularly get weak and lazy.

    Thanks for the prompt to keep resisting resistance by faith.

  2. P

    Ah, yes, while battling a chronic illness for the past few years, I have experienced the truth of “For when I am weak, then I am strong,” albeit with much resistance on my part! The muscles of my faith must be exercised for growth to occur, but it’s hard work. I had an epiphany moment not long ago when I realized that after years of praying that God would make me holy as He is holy–He is doing just that through my struggle to regain my health. I’m grateful.

    I’ve spent lots of time listening over and over again to Tim Keller’s sermon series through the book of Hebrews. It’s been a huge blessing and would commend to you, specifically, the sermon from Hebrews 12 called “The Runner” which speaks about resistance. Good stuff.

  3. Loriann S.

    You build up your faith muscles, and we get stronger. You get squeezed, we get the wine. That’s the wonder of community. Unlike at the gym, your workout brings gain not only to yourself, but to the one encouraged by you on the sidelines.

    Still, there is nothing like climbing the mountain yourself, feeling the resistance of grief, or sorrow, or frustration, to make a weakling into an spiritual athlete.

    When my husband and daughter were smacked head on by a drunk driver 8 months ago, I started resistance training on a whole new level. Massive orthopedic injuries for him, brain injury for her, and I’m looking at an impossible weight to carry. So the Great One and his friends helped me lift the load.

    When you’re huffing and puffing up the mountain you don’t realize you’re getting stronger. One day you look down, and your scrawny, scratched up arms are a little firmer, and your suntanned legs are bulkier, and you say “Hey, is that me?”

    Still, isn’t it great when you get a rest, and put your feet up with Jesus, and drink something cold and delicious….

    Thanks Brother Scott:)

    Your friend on the pilgrim road,

    Loriann

  4. Aaron Roughton

    I take boxing lessons on my lunch break at a hole in the wall gym down the road. One day the trainer asked me, “Why are you so scared of getting hit?? Did you get beat up a lot as a kid or something?” I answered, “Nope, I’ve never been beat up. Never even been in a real fight. THAT’s why I’m scared of getting hit.” The same could be said of my faith life. If resistance leads to growth, the path of least resistance leads to atrophy.

    Really enjoyed your post, Scott. And as an electrical engineer, those are some fine looking resistors in the picture.

  5. Gail Hafar

    Lately, I find myself resistant to accepting God’s infinite ability. I find Him continually challenging my paradigm of who He is… what He actually can do. Do I believe what I am reading in these words He wrote for me? I have been feeling the Spirit of God moving me to step far beyond my little backyard fence lately… asking me to pray for crazy things, to pray for healing for friends and strangers (right in front of them), to believe Him in His monstrous desire and will to bring His Kingdom to earth in so many new ways for me. And I am resistant to it. I am finding that it means that I will have to make a deliberate decision to be painted crazy by people around me. I was in Florida on the Gulf recently and witnessed the beginning fallout of the oil disaster on the shore where I stood… and I felt the Spirit of God whisper to stand in the middle of the water and pray for God to push the oil back to where it came from. And all at once I felt insane, inspired, scared, excited… and very resistant to the suggestion. And I failed to obey. And I am faced now… and every time I am nudged to pray for a miracle, whether or not I choose to respond in faith… with a nagging what-if. I saw an article recently stating how residents in Louisiana are gathering people to pray for divine intervention because they see no other way out of this catastrophe. And I stood there on the shore a couple of weeks ago concerned only with my pride and fear. Traded the very power of resurrection for a feeling of “normal”… God help me.

  6. Jud

    “A room emptied of argument arrests the creative energy needed for the lasting works of art, politics and love that will change the world.”

    I think this is going to stick with me for a while. Thanks, Scott.

  7. Scott

    Thanks everyone for the warm welcomes. I’m glad you like the picture of the resistors, Aaron. I was quite pleased to have found that nicely colored picture in my web search. Thanks for the honest talk, Gail. I love your prayer at the end: “God help me.” It’s the simplest prayer and the one God loves to answer. Be ready!

  8. Sam

    Resistance – hm… what about fighting? Sometimes I think I fight with my spouse more than I’ve ever fought with anyone. We mostly fight fair, and we get through stuff. But, sometimes, I want to run away from that and be silent. Communication with him is a resistance to my inclination to retreat. Communication with my Father in heaven is often an active struggle too.

  9. Eric Peters

    Might I humbly recommend “The War of Art” by Stephen Pressfield (“Legend of Bagger Vance”) for more on this concept of Resistance. Our very own Evie Coates loaned me her copy, and it rocked my bateau. (Evie, I’m sorry I haven’t returned your book yet)

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