Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Wax on, Wax off

I was 19 when the movie "The Karate Kid" came out, although I don't think I actually saw it until it hit cable where I watched it numerous times. The movie came to mind last week as I reflected on George Fox's epistles.

In the movie, a young man named Daniel enlists the aid of the local handyman, Mr. Miyagi, to learn karate. But Mr. Miyagi's teaching methods are not what Daniel expects. One day he is painting a huge fence, up.. down.. up.. down.., not side-to-side. Another time he has to sand the floor in slow, circular motions. He also ends up waxing Mr. Miyagi's collection of classic cars, where Mr. Miyagi imparts the famous "Wax on, wax off". All this time, Daniel is getting more and more anxious to learn karate, and eventually he blows up and accuses Mr. Miyagi of treating him like his own personal slave instead of teaching him karate. It is then that Mr. Miyagi shows Daniel that the repetitive motions he has been going through with these chores have been his training and that his body has learned these motions well.

While George Fox didn't write "wax on, wax off", at least not that I have come across, he still had a simple message. In epistle after epistle he advises us to wait - "wait in the light", "wait in the life and power", "wait upon the Lord", "wait in the pure spirit". Another variation is keep - "keep close to the light", "keep close to the Lord". Over and over he gives that simple message that if we wait in the light, God will purify us and bring us closer to him. I think sometimes we get anxious and expect something more complicated, just as Daniel asked Mr. Miyagi "when am I going to learn how to punch?" For many of us, this purification we undergo is a slow, almost imperceptible process that only becomes clear as we reflect back on it.

Isaac Penington reflected this same simple idea when he wrote:

Give over thine own willing, give over thine own running, give over thine own desiring to know or be anything, and sink down to the seed which God sows in thy heart and let that be in thee, and grow in thee, and breathe in thee, and act in thee, and thou shalt find by sweet experience that the Lord knows that and loves and owns that, and will lead it to the inheritance of life, which is his portion.

Perhaps Mr. Miyagi would have advised Daniel to "Give over thine own desiring to learn how to punch, and let karate be in thee, and grow in thee and act in thee."

1 comment:

  1. Mark,

    And it is also possible to mistake patience for laziness. Part of the appeal of the "wax on; wax off" story is the idea that there is a source of wisdom that knows what to do and will tell us exactly what to do. There's a kind of comfort in the idea that we will be told exactly what we are to do. Often we feel a bit at sea--willing to do God's will but unclear as to what it is. In such moments of unclarity "wax on; wax off" starts to sound very good indeed. This might be a topic for another post.