Saturday, August 1, 2009

Skating Values or Kingdom Values?

Every culture has its core values, standards and expectations. Those values need to be examined and not just assumed, especially by those of us whose first loyalty is to the Kingdom of God. Last weekend I plunged again into the figure skating world I talked about a couple weeks ago when I attended my first camp—two and a half intensive days of on-ice and off-ice classes that left me both invigorated and exhausted.

I am the only adult skater at my usual rink, so the first day I entered the locker room with the same feeling in my stomach as an outsider approaching an unknown culture. What will be expected of me? Am I going to make a fool of myself? When I arrived, everyone was dressed in black lycra stretch pants. I had brought nothing but practice skirts and dresses. “You goofed! You’re going to look foolish!” my brain screamed at me. I was relieved when a handful of other skirts appeared.

I won’t deny that to be slender (my husband would say ‘skinny’) is a value of the skating world. We almost all fit that mold, and those who didn’t were still on the lower levels of the sport. Outsiders might say we have an ‘unhealthy obsession with an unrealistic ideal of beauty’. Personally I think the sport attracts people with the body shape that can best handle the jumps and spins. Skating requires so much energy that if you are obsessive/compulsive enough to advance through the test levels, you will inevitably consume so many calories that you can’t help but be thin.

And we are ALL obsessive/compulsive. You don’t spend that many hours on the ice if you don’t have the drive to be perfect.

Being female is not a core value. Although only one man joined us for the camp, we all envied the woman whose husband skates pairs with her.

Youth is not a cultural value either—at least not of adult skaters. We admire the achievements of the elite skaters vying for national and Olympic medals, but we know that will never be us. Longevity and perseverance are stronger values. Although most camp participants were in their 30s and 40s and the Gold Level skaters were all in their twenties, I was not the oldest. Marcie was 64, and I only saw her sit out for one session—the off-ice jumping class.

Figure skating is addictive. During one of our (very brief) breaks someone commented, “It could be worse! I could be addicted to cocaine.” How much can I indulge my delight in the joy of physical exercise and artistic expression, without slipping over the line into unhealthy addiction? As a child of God, I should be asking how he wants me to spend my time and finances. That will undoubtedly include enjoying the body he created, but my identity needs to come from what he says is true of me and not from my failure to skate as well as the next person. My love for skating shouldn’t interfere with my God-given responsibilities to those around me. It comes down to the challenging question: What do I do when Kingdom values conflict with Skating values?