The school where we send our daughter and our money, American University, was in the news this morning. Apparently, a professor teaching a Sex, Gender and Culture anthropology class made the choice to breast feed her child during her class. Her child was sick and couldn’t go to day care so, rather than canceling her class, she brought the child to class and ended up having to feed her. Of course, everyone has strong opinions about the appropriateness of this action, but that’s not really my point here. I personally think that it is no coincidence that this happened in a class about gender norms and culture; in fact, I think she did it on purpose to make a point….but I could be wrong. If she did, I think it is a great idea and probably will likely trigger meaningful discussion on just the types of issues that these classes are designed to address.
Here is the part that I found interesting. In pursuing the story, Channel 4 interviewed some students at American University. Most didn’t see it as a big deal. One young woman, however, said “It made me uncomfortable and I don’t go to class to feel uncomfortable.”
In the book I referenced in my earlier post this week, we are examining what makes our life a “good” story. As I mentioned before, the author suggests that a good story is when a character wants something and is willing to overcome obstacles to get it. In the following chapters, he goes on to talk about the things that get in our way. For many of us, our addiction to comfort is the number one obstacle to living the meaningful story we crave. Even though we dream of a “better” story, we often struggle to move out of the patterns and habits with which we have grown comfortable. Even the undesirable can become familiar and safe. And that can keep us paralyzed in inaction.
As I traveled around to colleges with my daughter over the past year or so and listened to their spiels, I grew more and more excited about the opportunities she will have to dig deeper and explore her place in the world. I like to think that we have given her a good foundation, but now I hope she meets people who see the world differently and challenge her to really think about what is meaningful, what she believes and what her contribution to the world will be. I hope she is stretched and, yes, I hope that it is sometimes uncomfortable. And I hope that discomfort is much more compelling and provocative than being “forced” to see your professor breastfeed her child. Seriously!
Some of the best sermons that I have ever heard were the ones that make me uncomfortable. This is also true of some of my favorite books. Yet we live in a culture that is all about us maintaining a certain level of comfort….an underlying assumption that if I am uncomfortable in any way, then something is “broken” and needs to be “fixed.”
To some extent, this is true. If I am feeling pain in my body or my spirit, then I may need to look more closely and give attention to the source of that pain. However, I think we sometimes miss an opportunity in those times when discomfort or discontent is simply an invitation to wrestle with something, to dig deeper, to look more closely….simply put, an invitation to grow.
As I talked about in a post long ago, Jacob told the angel with whom he was wrestling “I will not let you go unless you bless me” in Genesis 32. Really wrestling with something, being uncomfortable, being challenged, being unsure, living in that “in between” and “I don’t know” place can sometimes bring about the greatest blessings on the other side. I am learning that sometimes I need to rest for a moment in those places and see what they may have to offer.
That doesn’t mean I have to like it though. 🙂