Was sitting here preparing for a full day that included teaching english and learning spanish all in the same afternoon when I unexpectedly caught some inspiration for this next blog while watching TV. Sometimes I like to have the TV on in the background as I am going about my day and making preparations. This morning the show "I Survived a Japanese Game Show" came on. For those of you who don't know, Japan has got a reputation for having probably the most humiliating game shows in the world. Contestants who participate often have to do stunts like dress up as giant babies with diapers and run obstacle courses that look like a nursery room...
On the show, there were two teams that are competing against each other. During each round, the winning team would get a reward (like a shopping spree or a day cruise) while the losing team would be sent to do menial tasks such as cutting bamboo for hours upon hours to make it into chopsticks. On this one episode that I was watching, two members of the losing team who were up for elimination were sent to a secluded temple near a forest with a group of monks.
The monks proceeded to make the two contestants participate in some ancient rituals. The first bit began when they got the contestants outfitted like the monks and had the sit in a circle and do deep breathing exercises and chanting. Next the monks had the two contestants run laps 100 times in circles on this concrete while chanting out loud. The contestants said later in an interview that their feet were burning and worn out because the cement was hot and hard and they had to run laps 100 times each.
Next the monks took the contestants down to a river here the water was freezing cold and had them go deeper and deeper bit by bit while chanting things like "Megan will always be the winner!" When this one contestant Megan went into the river, there she was freezing cold and being made to chant this mantra. The other guy that was with her had to do it too and he thought it was a stupid and ridiculous as well as humiliating.
Megan on the other hand had a very different experience. She said that there, in the water stripped of everything she was, she felt this incredibly calm peace and oneness and this strength. There would be no words that could describe this powerful, intense experience that she described as purifying. The Monks knew what they were doing the whole time. What was striking to me is that there were two people there that day that went through the exact same rituals and one came out thinking that it was stupid and the other came out forever changed.
Later they met the other team who had won and had gotten to go to one of a premier arcade in Tokyo. They met the two contestants who had been sent to the "punishment" and the two groups caught up with each other. Of course the guy told them that it was just ridiculous, stupid, exhausting, and humiliating. But when they asked Megan, she just started to cry and talking about what a deep spiritual cleansing it was.
I think this is such a great analogy for life. God sometimes allows us to go through rough patches that are tough and even humiliating. Life throws curveballs. Although we can't help or change that, we can decide how that experience is going to shape us. Watching that episode and seeing one group sent to a reward and the other sent to a punishment, I wonder if Megan's "punishment" really ended up being a "reward" after all.....