Sanctuary

I shared the story of Demi Lovato in my last sermon. www.pennpres.org

As she endured a difficult time of life battling mental illness and depression she attempted to take her own life. After emerging from that season her response to leaving treatment and retreat was to head to her “sanctuary”. This meant going to Unbreakable Performance in LA to train on the BJJ mats. Those mats were her sanctuary.

I understand her retreat to the mats. I often find sanctuary at Gracie Barra Princeton. In a sense it is my sanctuary. Which is funny because I literally work in a sanctuary.

I work at a Presbyterian church in central New Jersey. It is a great place with great people. And I spend Sunday’s welcoming people to a place to break away from their normal rhythm of life to consider deeper things. Things of life. Things of death. Faith, work, kingdom. Existential reality is negotiated among the sacred and ordinary.

But the room I work in is rarely sanctuary for me. It is my office and my factory floor. Worship services are times when I am thinking about facilitating meaningful things for others and hitting my mark. Trying to remember my sermon or prayer. So I retreat on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings usually. I put in a different robe and I commune with different people. I am not the one people take their lead from but simply a follower. I am mentored and guided by those who have much more skill than I do. It feels safe to me. Yet I am challenged beyond belief.

Sanctuary is rarely safe but it is set apart. It is the space where life finds meaning and I am moved from my comfort zone to a place of discomfort where growth and transformation can happen. I enter with anticipation, expectation and a little bit of fear.

I fear getting hurt. I fear looking stupid. I fear getting dominated. And I fear I’m falling behind. And yet. Sanctuary is the place where fear is transformed into hope and belief. Where fear is moved from the drivers seat to the back seat. When I cross the threshold and become a warrior on the mats I am no longer a victim, I am not a disease, I am not a minority. I am not anything but a partner and a learner. Uki or senior. I learn and I share. I take what I need and I offer what I have.

The result is community and growth. Maturity and connection. This sanctuary has a strange commonality to the one I work in. But it is different too.

It has less history. Less baggage. Less institution. Less ego. More hierarchy. More sweat. More blood. More humility.

I hope Demi Lovato finds what she so desperately needs in her sanctuary. I know I have. Both the one I work in and the one I practice in. I hope every reader does too. If you ever need a guide in BJJ head over to Gracie Barra Princeton or North Princeton. Coach Turtle or Coach Wojtek will show you the way. If you ever need sanctuary come visit me at Pennington Pres, I’ll walk with you and share what I have.

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