After we are small children, it is rare that we are carried. Perhaps for a joke or dare, a photo op at a threshold, or in the case of injury, or in certain situations in old age? My baby is big enough now I rarely carry his full weight unless he is asleep. He lifts his own head and leans in the direction he wants to go.
I was always way too worried about getting into trouble or getting hurt to allow much play carrying. My marriage is too egalitarian to take a photo unless there is a way to depict us carrying each other, which gets complicated. I have not aged to a point where physical transfer is necessary, and none of my physical injuries have been serious enough to require a stretcher or wheelchair. Thank God.
I do not want to be carried. And this resistance is a weakness.
It has been a long season, nearly two years now, of not having the resources or capacity to do everything for myself or my family. My body has not needed carrying, but pretty much every other area of my life has been picked up by others for at least a time. The cooking. Childcare. Laundry. Kids’ activities. I have gotten better at asking for help and receiving it.
During the last six weeks, we have been walking through the slow court proceedings and respective return into grief and trauma following my sister’s violent death. Even with all the rational legitimacy of my need for support in this difficult time, I feel like there is a measure of acceptable carrying. The line is wherever I am even the least bit capable of doing it for myself. I feel guilty about receiving, worried about being a burden.
My head knows how many people have loved us, how they have longed to ease the burden, and been grateful for every time we reached out to ask for assistance. Still my heart feels unworthy at some deep level. For all these long months, God is carrying me and I’m trying to leap out of his arms to do it myself.
I spent many years building the fortress of my own independence. I stored up my value in doing it all. Like an infant resisting sleep, I would have to be unconscious to really let myself be carried completely. And then it would not have any spiritual benefit.
This is the invitation before me for this part of the journey: to let myself be carried into a most difficult part of my story. To invite the help and support of others, to release anxiety and worry, to face only one moment at a time, without clinging to the way I want things. I have so little experience being carried.
Practicing is tedious. I am not aware of all the ways I reach for the ground and try to load up my arms with my share. Cue another sixteen opportunities to be wrong and then feel bad about it.
I pick up my little guy and I notice that relaxing into rest is a process for him. He begins restless and distracted. Resistant and irritable. And as I walk with him gently, going about the tidying up at a snail’s pace, he slows too. The stuffed moose gets wedged in beside his face by a sibling and he makes space for its calming familiarity. He begins to stare of into space, forgetting the effort of willing another way. Ever so slowly, his head finds the cradle of my arm. He smiles sleepily. I look away, not wanting to distract his work. He drifts off, and my heart and face are filled with the joy of being his resting place.
I want to rest, fully and completely. To will myself to be carried, awake and at rest, by the loving care of my people, and in the unwavering foundation that is God. And I need so much more practice.
I built a wall around my heart so that I couldn’t feel the love that carried me, in spite of myself. I am finding a few practices to bore holes in the bedrock. It is like preschool for this senior perfectionist.
First, to breathe, deeply and often, as a silent prayer. In with the air I need to breathe – that I did not provide for myself, and out with the lie of not needing anything. My need is the opportunity to receive the gifts of others. God is breathing life into me in every moment.
Next, I am stopping several times a day to sink into the things that are supporting me physically. The ground beneath my feet. The chair holding me from falling. The arms of my husband and parents, siblings and extended family. I am trying to let them hold me a little longer. To rest there.
Finally, I am praying surrender for myself and with my people. Moment by moment, I whisper release. I want to be good at this but for now, I will glory in the desire to let God be God. Maybe in the quiet, while God is busy tidying things up slowly, I will start to stare off by accident, and be carried into rest for even just a few minutes. It takes effort, but a gentle effort, an oxymoron I am learning to embrace.
I am going to try to rest. If – when – I try to get up too quickly, could you carry me back again? I have a feeling that the practice is still going to take awhile.
The quiet surrender of a baby makes a good metaphor for our need to let God be God in our lives. It is a process of maturation.
Oh what peace can be ours if we can become little children again.
Enjoy your literary style.
Leah, your words speak right to me. Even when I was very young, a child in my parents’ home, I had earned the lesson that receiving their help always came at a high cost to me. I learned the lesson to not ask and to not let anyone carry me. And it’s a hard lesson to unlearn. I SAY I can trust people, but I’m actually too terrified to rely on them. And you can well imagine the bumps on the road that my relationship with God hits.
When I was about 12, I got to hold my wee niece against my bossom in a rocking chair on the veranda in Waterloo, QC. Can still feel it. Now when sleeplessness gets me up at night (call to prayer?) I sit on the couch and our cat, Max, slides by and up, wanting to be held, stroked and…held. That’s like us and God, eh?
Leah, so beautifully written & truly resonated with me. Thank you for sharing.
The words you shared about gently allowing myself to be carried have been a blessing this season. Thank you for sharing.