Although the new mother hesitated about picking up her toddlers at the same time, one on each arm, she thought that it was the best she could do at the moment. After all, they were both crying for her and picking one up and then returning for the other might leave him in danger of falling down the steep stairs. But she could also fall if she is unable to handle both of them as she descended. And just as she feared, she lost the grip of one of her children and the child, as if in slow motion, began to tumble down. She was caught in a helpless state, for she couldn’t rush down to save the child, without endangering the one she still carried. All she could do was scream “Jesus!” even as her heart rate shot up and the falling child’s begging and dependent eyes looked up to her mother to save her. At that moment, the powerless mother had to watch her child fall down the stairs and pray that she would not be injured. She had thought she would be always there to protect them fiercely as a mother naturally would. But there she was, watching her child fall, not knowing the end and she couldn’t do anything about it.
The above incident was one of the most traumatic moments for me as a mother. Although I am sure my daughter does not remember this as it happened before she was a year old, I cannot shake that memory and moment out of my mind. I still remember my daughter’s eyes, even as she was falling, looking up to me for help, to save her, and I just stood there helpless, unable to do anything for her. It is haunting and painful and it reminds me that as much as I would need and want to be in control of protecting my children, my abilities are nevertheless limited and that there might be times when I will have to stand aside powerless and perhaps see things tumble or crash down. Miraculously, my daughter was not harmed and in the end, although she was visibly shaken, she surprisingly didn’t cry. I was thankful, so thankful that the Lord had heard my cry, but I had been changed in that moment.
There is a song that my church sometimes sings in worship. Each time I sing it, whether in the public space of the church or the private moments of my own quiet time with God, the impact is still the same, heartbreaking yet assuring. The song speaks of our inability and limitations as beings of flesh and blood, but simultaneously reminds us of our advocate, a supernatural power above and beyond those very limitations. The song goes like this: “I have no power of my own. I have no power of my own. I depend on you Holy Spirit; I have no power of my own.”
One thing that I have come to learn repeatedly is the lack of power that we as human beings have over many situations. Don’t get me wrong. We are strong. We are powerful. We have agency and we make, shake and move things. We can fight; we can struggle and we can impact change in so many areas of our lives, physically and otherwise. But then we can come to some simple or even difficult areas of life, where we are simply rendered helpless, unable to alter or move the simplest things, much less difficult ones, and we have to wait on and cry to God, knowing that we need Him to save us or change our circumstances for us. We can complete hundreds of resumes, be called in for all the interviews and yet go back empty-handed, despondent, discouraged, helpless. This can go on for months and even years and you wonder: what will it take to secure a job? What can you do to push your resume to the top of the pile and what can you do to cause the manager to make that phone call to offer you the position? And the answer is nothing. You have no power. You have done your part; you have applied; you have even interviewed and now you are forced to sit and wait, and wait and wait. I have seen this with numerous people, and the process can be discouraging.
Sometimes, the problem could be a sickness with which you have struggled. On its initial onset, though you were devastated and in shock of your diagnosis, you decided to fight. You did all that you were advised to do and even more. You put your body through all kinds of procedures and regimen which left you tired, spent, physically transformed and in debt. You prayed, fasted and sought for prayers from pastors and spiritual advisors and just when you thought that you were winning or had overcome, you came to learn that the sickness had returned with a vengeance. What do you do when you have fought and fought, prayed and prayed? What do you do when all your efforts and hard work have been rendered useless, ineffective? What do you do when you are made painfully aware that you have no power to change your debilitating circumstance? Your helplessness is palpable.
Beside the instance discussed above, you may face countless others. Perhaps you have spent all your words and voice in advising and admonishing your child, yet he or she is bent on a wayward life you know will only end at minimum adversely or at most, tragically. But nothing you do or say makes any difference. You are powerless. Or perhaps, your struggle is financial, because the country’s economic instability has thrown your financial life into turmoil. The job you thought you securely held has been taken from you. You are forced to get a less paying one just to support yourself and your family. In the mean time, you dip into all your savings to keep yourself afloat. You now have no reserves, the money coming in from the work you do is simply not enough. You are behind in your bills and face the threat of eviction and/or bankruptcy. Your children are depending on you while you know that you might be thrown out on the streets in a matter of days. You have done all you can, what else?
The title of this article is Lean! The word Lean means “to incline the weight of the body so as to be supported.” It means “to rely for assistance or support.” I use the concept of leaning here because the truth is that sometimes, it is simply too difficult to stand. We like to believe that we can stand strong in the midst of trials and we can often muster up some strength to stand in defiance of the troubles mounting against us. But then, there are times that the strength to stand is not fully there, not because our foundation, Christ, is unstable, but simply because our legs are wobbly. We are unstable, for our strength is nearly depleted. So we must kneel down or prostrate ourselves or simply sit down and lean against the wall. The wall will not shift and while we are resting against it, we cannot slip and fall. We are resting on it for support, for nothing else is there. By leaning against the wall, we are putting our weight, the burden of our problems on that wall, so that we can be held up. That wall represents our Rock of Ages; it is the Rock of Gibraltar that cannot fail.
The story of Jacob is a very telling one and when you read the full account of his life, you are left with an affirming belief that God was with him and that despite how he may have cheated his older brother and was subsequently painfully cheated by his own uncle, suffered the death of his beloved Rachel, the excruciating “loss” of his favorite son Joseph and even more, you learn that Jacob often had to lean when he could not stand.
After 21 years of running away from his brother Esau who wanted to kill him, Jacob was ready to make amends. Yet he was terribly afraid for his life. So while Jacob had elaborately prepared himself, his family and his servants to appease Esau, he was still terrified. The night before Jacob would meet Esau, the Bible states, “then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he (the man) saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then he (the man) said, ‘let me go, for the dawn is breaking’. But he said, I will not let you go unless you bless me. So he said to him, ‘what is your name?’ and he said, ‘Jacob.’ He said, your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed’” Genesis 32: 24-28. Because Jacob continued to struggle throughout the night even in his debilitated state, at daybreak, he prevailed, was blessed and was renamed.
Like Jacob, this might be your darkest hour, but know that daybreak is coming. Like Jacob, you might be unable to stand, because the socket in your leg has been dislocated, and although the pain is agonizing, continue to wrestle. Continue to lean against the Rock, even as you can no longer stand. Continue to cry out His name “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” believing that He will surely hear you and answer your prayer. Like Jacob, realize the fight is about life and death. If you have given your all, lean! If you are unable to stand, lean! Even if doubts are bombarding your mind and heart, lean, because as you lean against the Rock, you are still engaged in the fight. Even if the tears stream down your face in view of your supposed helpless state, lean, for refusing to allow the currents of the flood to overwhelm and carry you away, is staying in the fight. Lean on Christ, your one and only salvation, the only hope of mankind. Lean, for your daybreak is near. Lean, for the changing of your name is at hand.
Coincidently, as I am ending this article, I am reminded of a song in the Akan language. The song interestingly reflects what I have written here. The song tells of the fight that one might be waging and encourages the fighter to continue to do battle and not give up, assuring him that daybreak is near. More specifically, the chorus of the song repeatedly advises the fighter to lean on God even in their darkest hour. I had no idea that even as the Lord dropped the hymnal I began with in my heart, that He would lead me to recall the Akan song. I share this bit of information because it confirms to me that this message is from God to his children. He knows what you are going through and how you are struggling. He wants you to continue to lean on Him, for He is surely in control.