Monday, November 14, 2005

SFB shirt

Don't you hate it when you get to the point of feeling like you've worn every single item in your wardrobe at least a thousand times? Trying to pick out something to wear for the day, you feel incredibly unoriginal and hopelessly bored with your own sense of fashion... Well, today was such a day. So, feeling frustrated and desperate, I dug deep and pulled out something so old that it feels new. Actually something quite special. Thus today I proudly wear a memory, a story -- a paint-flecked powder-blue T-shirt emblazoned with the letters SFB, a rabbit, and a basketball.

The shirt is an artifact of my days at Bowling Green State University -- golden days of my reminiscence. A time of clarity, capability, comradery... Working for a church that I loved, surrounded by people that I loved, leading a life of meaning and fulfillment... I loved my years in Bowling Green. And the SFB T-shirt represents all of this. There are just ten copies of such a shirt in existence -- owned by nine of my dearest friends... and me. The shirts were printed as basketball uniforms for an intermural sports team at the University. We mockingly christened ourselves as the "Soft Fuzzy Bunnies" -- poking fun at ourselves and at a culture that tends to take its sports too seriously; the name was meant to communicate the opposite of the "cool" self-assured confidence and toughness assumed to bring success in athletic competition. The effeminate powder-blue color of the T-shirts and the silly grin on the cariactured rabbit's face only magnified the effect of the joke... But instead of inducing shame and embarrassment -- wearing the shirt came to provoke a feeling of pride and joy. The SFB shirt symbolized (and still symbolizes, to me) that certain brand of Mid-west American self-deprecating humor, brotherly friendships, and memorable experiences of doing the things we loved with the people we loved.

But a couple of years following the conclusion of the Soft Fuzzy Bunnies' basketball season, I packed up and left Bowling Green -- bound for adventures in Amsterdam. My SFB shirt managed to stay a part of my wardrobe, even to the point of being included in the suitcase that sustained me during my first days in Amsterdam (before the rest of my posessions arrived by ocean cargo transport several months after the initial landing). But much was sacrificed during those early days in Amsterdam... including the old SFB shirt. Our main occupation at the beginning of our life in Amsterdam was to build a church -- both in the sense of establishing a new community of faith in central Amsterdam, and in the sense of literally rebuilding an old canal-side attic into a place for our ministry activities. Construction projects to complete, walls to be painted, floors to be stained... it was a mess. And since my suitcase wardrobe was so limited in those days, some of my regular clothes had to become "work clothes." Thus my SFB shirt picked up flecks of orange from the wall-paint in the Zolder's cafe/lounge area... dark blue streaks from the paint job in the kitchen corridor... and dingey brown smudges from the oil used to treat the oak floorings. And when the building projects were (mostly) completed, and my family was (mostly) settled with the rest of our earthly posessions, the old stained SFB shirt found its way to the bottom of a drawer -- abandoned to mothballs and memories...

Until today.

Putting on the shirt this morning, I was again filled with a sense of pride and joy. Perhaps it's not the most beautiful shirt anymore. The jokes behind the SFB shirt's origins and meanings are not as clear to this culture and this circle of acquaintances; the paint stains and faded blue just make it look like any crummy old T-shirt, at least to the casual observer. But in a very real sense, the SFB shirt represents my life. My sacrifices, my choices, my stories, my stains. There's happiness and sadness, a sense of gain and a sense of loss. It can be depressing to look at something like my SFB shirt and remember what it used to be. Yet I'm encouraged by the words of Jesus, who reminded his disciples that "no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life" (Luke 18:29-30). And I don't know exactly what that means -- nor can I feel smug in arrogant assurance that these promises are for my choices and my intentions -- but I'm still strangely encouraged. And I'm appropriately proud and joyful to be wearing my SFB shirt on a day like today.


At 11:07 PM, Blogger Bryan's Blog said...

Now you got me all choked up. I remember the days of going 0-4, but doing it together, and having fun during the process. I miss those times and I miss my teammate! But, you put it best with the verse from Luke 18, if we really believe that verse then we have to go when we are called, but that does not maen it will be easy.

At 9:17 AM, Blogger Eric Asp said...

It's great to hear from another Soft Fuzzy Bunny, Bryan... It's amazing to me how much emotion such memories can actually draw up. I was telling someone else the story about my shirt on Monday and found myself actually crying in the process (and I'm not an easy weeper)... I miss all of you guys in Bowling Green.

At 5:33 PM, Blogger Jason Slack said...

I never had the pleasure of being a Soft Fuzzy Bunny, but I surely remember those years. In fact, I remember our first intramural basketball team name (before SFB was even a thought). The "Jesus Freaks" followed the same self-deprecating humor as SFB with a strange evagelical twist. What were we thinking? And yes, I still have the t-shirt.

At 5:37 AM, Blogger Jay said...

My "Hebrews 12, Jesus Freaks" shirt is still a part of my vast t-shirt collection.

At 7:18 PM, Anonymous Matt Olszewski said...

That was a beautiful story about the Soft Fuzzy Bunnies. And I would like to make a correction of Bryan that we went 1-3 and not 0-4. That was a great story and memory. And lets not forget that the team name the next year was then the Soft Fuzzy Bennies. Miss you Eric.


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