Spelunking & Broad Shoulders

NOTE TO READER: Much of this was written in late July 2017, yet I updated it. I hope somehow you feel encouraged.

This may not come as a shock to some, but I wasn’t good at keeping my cool as a child towards particular people. I was in second grade when I realized there was someone in my grade school that didn’t like me, and he thought he could intimidate me and bully me. Strange because I was the tallest and biggest kid, but I was the one getting bullied. He would make fun of me for no apparent reason, and he made fun of me for being chunky. It was subtle jabs. Eventually one day, I told my pops about it. I was pretty upset because I didn’t know what to do. All I knew is that I wanted to cream him, maybe give him a black eye or two. I knew though I couldn’t do it.

As I told my dad everything, he looked at me and shook his head at me. He chuckled, actually! He brought me close as I was sitting in his office, put me on his lap, and told me something that has stuck with me since then. “Philip, my dear boy, you’re the biggest and tallest. Sometimes, other people will have a problem with you. They will do whatever it takes to rile you up. Force you to say and do things you’ll regret. People don’t like it that you’re okay with you…” I interjected as my dad did his typical hand movements when he starts to make a point. I believe I had a few tears in my eyes and I said, “DAD! What am I suppose to do? All I want to do is make him shut up.”

Sighing as every dad does. My dad got quiet and let me into something that has rung in my ears since those days. “Son, you’re a Worrall. You’re going to have to get broader shoulders. You’ll have to keep getting bigger ones as you grow up. Then, you gotta find a way to let it roll off your back.”

Broader shoulders? Let it roll off my back?? I was confused. As my dad explained what it meant, I realized that it could be my superpower. I was a pretty imaginative kid, but you’d rarely see it. Somehow, I’d use this superpower to take on other people’s burdens and figure ways to lighten their load. I’d meet with other superheroes and save the world. Silly, but we all have done it!

Fast forward to today. I’m twenty-six and second grade was a long time ago that kid is gone. (He and I never became friends, and I eventually got the last laugh. No, I didn’t do anything cruel, hurtful, or destructive.) Still, I hear my father’s words: “Broader shoulders, son.” But, I don’t know if I can have broader shoulders. I’m beat up, and I feel my fragility. I can be so much more; I can be better, stronger, smarter, etc. Nevertheless, all I feel is despondent.

A song by Penny and Sparrow called the “The Literal Heart,” has some lines that echo that feeling within me.

“I could be so much stronger than I am right now
With broader shoulders and a sturdy frame
But that would cost me time and change
That I might not be willing to make

It’s gonna take every drop of young blood I’ve got
So hold on and stop and settle down

I want to sit still and empty
I want to learn the hollow route

A lonely piece of mountain
I want to sit and shut my mouth
But I’ll be damned, I’d rather sleep…”

Now, before I go any farther, quit with your gripping and statements, “Phil, you’re being melodramatic.” Well, your cheeky comments show how little you know me. I detest all forms of weakness and vulnerability in my life. Stoicism has served me well in life, but it does some damage if you’re not careful, which I haven’t been careful when drinking that hemlock.

But, I need to make a point. It is difficult for me to admit that I don’t have broad enough shoulders for everything life throws at me. Why? It is because I want to be rock, not needing anything… or anyone. That seems pretty anti-Gospel because I unquestionably need God at every point in my life.

This point has come clear within some deep emotions and feelings that have surfaced which have kinda uncovered how genuinely vulnerable I am. There are only two people who I think know me to that point that can call me out without me becoming defensive. By calling out, I mean this fact that I carry too much on myself and have the biggest and broadest shoulders with nothing phasing me. No, they aren’t my parents. They know who they are.

What’s my point in this? Well, I take this whole Gospel and Jesus being God thing seriously. And, I too often still associate my life with God through faith as one that is a steady increase in holiness and true purity. In reality, it is sometimes like spelunking. So, my point is that my shoulders aren’t as broad as I want them to be. Within the Christian life, the moments of spelunking can look a bit antithetical to everything we have been taught that we are to progress into holiness. More often than not, we find that we are taking steps backward, and we forget to realize that God came for all of us and God understands the complex nature of life with Him and neighbor. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean we are taking steps backward; it could be the catalyst moment for growth and deepening of our faith.

Anyway, I know I’ll continue to try and have the broadest shoulders. Additionally, I hope in a God that gets why I try to do that. I believe God meets us in the midst of the spelunking so that God’s Gospel found in Jesus Christ looks even more captivating and beautiful. Following God and living out the Gospel isn’t a punctiliar moment, even though we want it to be. It takes a lifetime, and God knew that when He sent His Son.

My Advice: Listen to Khalid

Recently, I’ve come across an artist named Khalid. I’m interested in when he puts out a full-length album, which at the moment is scheduled for March. Right now, he only has some singles out, but his lyrics and beats make the tracks addictive to those things on either side of your head called ears. My favorite singles are “Shot Down” and “Reasons.” I’m first drawn to a song because of the overall vibe of the song, and, eventually, I get into the lyrics. And there was no exception when I stumbled across Khalid. Shout out to Spotify for throwing the young gun into the playlist.

Anyway, I want to draw some attention to the major theme(s) of his music, which like most RnB singers, is relationships, love, and turmoil. What I like most about his music is that even though he is 18 years old, he doesn’t really reduce the complexities a relationship. Even though most RnB is sappy or sexual in its persuasion, Khalid produced songs, so far, that reach into the human condition that many of us will never shake: we want to connect with another in a meaningful way.

It is interesting because I recently read an article in Psychology Today on Intimacy. Don’t ask me why I picked up a psychology magazine. All I remember was that I got bored of writing and staring at Moodle for my classes at Seminary. So, I looked around for some of the less academic magazines or journals in the Fuller Library. Blah, blah, I skimmed through Psych. Today, and this article caught my eye, so I read it. The article had some intriguing thoughts on the topic, and I don’t remember ridiculing the article as a whole. Notwithstanding, there were parts of I found iffy, at best. Of course, that’s my normal tendency. Lisa Phillips, the article’s author, states concerning this deep human desire for intimacy that,

“Small wonder the quest for intimacy is everywhere, from earnest online dating profiles to bursts of social media confessionalism meant to elicit a long line of supportive affirmations and emojis.”

It is crazy to me that much of technology is driven towards enabling intimacy, but somehow it alienates us more from each other. This thought is accentuated in Khalid’s song “Location” in which he sings toward a potential lover that face-to-face interaction will be the factor for this thing to work because technology isn’t cutting it.

Send me your location, let’s focus on communicating, ’cause
I just need the time and place to come through…

I don’t want to fall in love off of subtweets so…
Let’s get personal.

What am I getting at? Well, I don’t know if I am getting at anything in particular because I’m not trying to convince you of anything. However, I find it interesting how these two overlap. In the article, we have this deep desire for intimacy and the key factor for actually achieving any intimacy, whether in platonic or romantic relationships, comes from a hunch. And, from Khalid’s song, we gather a sense that true connection comes at a cost of time that many people aren’t willing to give.

I wonder if even the smallest connections are becoming harder for us to make? I could be absolutely wrong, but maybe it is a good reminder that any attempt for intimacy comes from a hunch that the other person is trustworthy and can listen well. Also, the hunch has to be something that we are willing to take time on.

Again, I could be completely off base. I’m not trying to prove or state anything profound. But, I do know this. Listen to Khalid’s music. It is pretty awesome.

Own Appeal

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“I never asked to be born, and death’s no question. The sun’s still shining off the same old lessons. Then why does life feel like an educated guess and my thoughts are like meals, I’m a sucker for the seconds. Impressions got a lot of us stressing, but how we are perceived is more about a reflection.”

Some provocative words from this rapper show how steeped a song can become with philosophy. Honestly, the song is more than just a cool beat and some dope lyrics that make you wanna rhyming with the guy. Oddisee shows a bit of his mind, while trying to promote something more than himself. I applaud the guy for his lyrical genius in the song and most of his other ones too. So, as a night-cap, I wanted to introduce you to a song, but I wanted to show you that within music there lies a whole other world that most of us are unaware of: the world of ideas, philosophies, and experiences.