Friday, February 22, 2013

On the Education of an Old Fart

          I am a strong believer that God will take his children through unique events and experiences in order to give us a testimony designed to encourage others. Sometimes these experiences are failures, like when Joshua believed the Gibeonites story without consulting the Lord, and so had to protect this enemy instead of conquering them.[1] Sometimes these experiences are sins, like the things we learn from David’s sin with Bathsheba, and the grace and mercy of God that held on to him as a man after God’s own heart.[2] Other times they are simply embarrassing things, like Peter boldly declaring that he would protect Jesus from going to Jerusalem and being crucified, only to hear Jesus say, “Get behind me Satan!”.[3]

          I trust that is a long enough segue to introduce the subject of farting, and the lessons I have learned. I do not mean the lessons I’ve learned about farting (that would be flat-out ridiculous), but the lessons I’ve learned because of farting.

          It all goes back to a small group camping trip outside of Tofino, British Columbia. There were eleven of us ranging in age from preschool through to retirement. The weather that week was primarily of the foggy-overcast seaside variety, which meant spending a fair bit of time huddled around a little propane-campfire in a shelter the locals ended up naming “Tarp City”.

          Our proximity to one another confronted us with the inevitable: someone farted. Suddenly a whole network of coping mechanisms kicked in. Some tried to ignore what they heard, while others giggled in spite of attempts to the contrary. None of us realized what lessons we were about to learn, but, since we had a hearty menu of camp cuisine lined up for the week, lessons were sure to follow!

          Of course, I do not have a detailed recollection of how things went from there, but it came down to this: we realized that we all felt that there was some level of shame associated with our experience with farting. None of us knew how much of this was because we were good religious people who believed such things were simply improper (Jesus didn’t fart, did he?), how much was associated with our polite Canadian culture, and how much was an expression of an inner fear-based shame mindset that came from who knows where. However, we all agreed that farting, responses to farting, and discussions about farting, were permeated with some kind of feelings of embarrassment wafting out of some kind of mindset of shame.

          Over the course of the week of camping, we discovered that we were able to talk about things to do with shame, guilt and fear (the three things that followed sin into the Garden of Eden). At the same time, we were able to consider how God was working to set us free from this crippling triad, as well as building the loving, humble, compassionate relationships that would withstand such things.

          In a sense, farting was a test. There were far more shameful things inside us than farts. If we saw that someone’s indiscreet fart received outright disapproval, open ridicule, or even embarrassed silence, how would we trust each other to share our soul-farts, so to speak?

          What we found was that, honesty about a basic bodily function that everyone does,[4] prepared the way for us to be honest about other things as well. We never did focus on something that still may never be our favorite thing to talk about, but on what it felt like for people to know something of what we are like and still accept us.

          Some years before this camping trip, my wife and I attended a Pastors and Wives Retreat where one of the pastors had tried to break the ice by asking people how their families dealt with farting as they were growing up. When I first heard him announce this, I felt a sense of encouragement that such a group of people would lead the way in showing it was okay to talk about something like this. The next night I was hugely disappointed to hear the same pastor apologizing for offending some of our peers who thought it was inappropriate to talk publicly about such embarrassing things.

          The message to me was that, even among the couples who were leading dozens of churches around our province, it was not safe to fart. It was not safe to talk about farting. It was not safe to be known as one who farted. It was not safe, period.

          Seeing the freedom that came during our camping trip some years later affirmed the negative and the positive of the lesson. When people see normal issues of life treated as shameful, they will also hide the things that are even more shameful than that. When people see that the normal issues of life are treated as normal, without suppressing or exaggerating them out of their place, they start to feel safe that the “abnormal” issues of their hearts may be just as well received.

          I do not think there is any way to set a policy on how much or little churches should talk about things like burps and farts. After almost a decade of working with children, I can see how they need to be taught both good manners, and that there is nothing shameful about how their bodies work. After years of working with adults in the area of long-standing childhood wounds, I am certain that most adults I have met have not been given good mentoring in a God-honoring worldview of how our body, soul and spirit work together, and how Jesus heals his family of the soul-wounds that have been with us for a long time.

          As our bodies were clearly designed to express our souls into the material realm, we can also learn from our bodies that such natural things as farting invite our souls to express our heartaches to one another in soul-to-soul relationships.

          At least, in my personal experience, the people who have learned to trust each other to be safe with their farts are the ones who are learning to trust each other with their hearts. A gathering of such people may sometimes get smelly, but the growing love relationships make it worth the discomfort as we enjoy the feeling of being with a spiritual family that accepts us and loves us along every level of our growing up to maturity in Christ.

          Now, in case someone would like to see if the Bible encourages us to think along these lines, here is what the apostle Paul wrote: Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.[5] I know that Christ has welcomed me, burps, farts, and all, so we must do the same with one another. The more we talk about it, the easier it gets.

          From my heart,



© 2013 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Joshua 9
[2] II Samuel 11; Acts 13:22
[3] Matthew 16:23; Mark 8:33
[4] Yes, even Jesus farted. He created the human body. Every human body functions the same way. He came in a human body in every way as ourselves. Every body creates the gas that escapes as farts, or flatulence. Even after death, the human body is known to release a last expulsion of internal gasses. There is nothing shameful about any of this.
[5] Roman 15:7

1 comment:

  1. The use of "permeated" and "wafting" in this did not go unnoticed! That is a really great story. It's amazing how God can use anything to bring freedom, even a fart.