(Thank you to https://rippoffthedisguise.deviantart.com/art/Holding-hands-167975370 for the beautiful artwork.)
“Let go…” I say, gently giving my massage client’s arm a little jiggle. “Be like a wet noodle. Just lay there and let me do all the work.” Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn’t; and I continue to be met with resistance and holding in every new position I move to, or body part I pick up. This is very normal in massage for first-timer’s, type A personalities, or just really tense people who have an unconscious need to stay in control in some small aspect or moments in their lives which tend to feel mostly out of control. I get that. Ask anyone who has worked on me… I used to be that. I would lay on the table with my fists clenched and not even realize it until my therapist picked up my hand.
The key for me as a therapist, and now as a student of self-awareness, is the unconscious nature of this holding. It is not just in session that people hold their bodies and their breath. It often takes someone pointing it out before we ever know we are doing it. Even then, a few seconds later, we can reflexively return to this state of chronic low grade tension. As the therapist I experience two reactions to a client who “fights” me without knowing it. One, a compassionate awareness that many things are pulling at this person, and they are in need of comfort and freedom of space. Two, a frustration that we could do so much more and work so much deeper if he or she would just LET GO.
This morning in spiritual direction, I was reminded of something I have heard and said so many times it could be a cliché; but later in the day when I was the one saying, “let go,” it became the most poignant wake-up call I have had in a while. I have been struggling with my process of discernment and formation as an Episcopal priest. Apparently, this is all very “normal.” How irritating… 😊 In these past blogs I have been writing about feeling like I am more able to move through difficult feelings and fears in my every day life; yet lately this one HUGE aspect has been met with clinging and resistance. I worry what it will be like when I am ordained. Will I be more or less of myself- who God has made and called me to be? Is there some other way I should be living out my call? I have been “shoulding” and “what-if-ing” all over the place about this one huge decision. Well, it is not a decision, it is a PROCESS; and it is one I do not face alone.
As my director, who is an Episcopal nun, spoke of how nervous she was taking her final vows until she looked into the chapel and saw all her family and friends sitting there supporting her, I remembered not being nervous at all on my wedding day, because I was surrounded by people who loved me and had traveled every step of the dating and commitment process with me. Still today, in the struggles that marriage brings, I am supported by a community of other married people. Being a priest, living out any call in this life for that matter, is done in community. Additionally, I was reminded to ask God for more help, not just the people around me. (I abhor asking for help! “I am the helper.” You can see what I mean about the control and the holding….) But, when I put this concept in terms of being on God’s table (yes massage—but maybe communion too!) you see that, like me feeling frustrated that I could be doing so much more, so much better if the person on the table would just let go, perhaps God feels that way about me sometimes!
God knows and loves us beyond any human concept of love. When I work on people and God works through me, I get just the tiniest, but still extremely powerful side benefit of that love moving through me on its way to my client. At times it is truly overwhelming and takes my breath away and brings tears to my eyes. I think to myself, “I hope you are feeling this! Even if for one moment everyone could feel this tremendous love wash over and through them, they could hold that sensation for the rest of their lives.” Over and over I have felt that. And just like with my clenched fists or stiff arm, I still need a reminder.
My director said to take the hand of God and let God lead me instead of trying to figure it all out. I have seen what God can do even in the worst tragedies, which is why I want to be a chaplain and a priest. Yet, I admit when it comes to what I think is most important I struggle to let go and trust. I need the reminder that God knows better, more beautiful, productive, efficient ways of serving more people than I ever could. I like all of those things; and I love God! “But,” my director said, “Remember, in order to take God’s hand and let God lead you, you have to be willing to reach out to God and let God hold you.”
You have to reach out and let go. It is almost unbearably hard at times to let go of attachment to outcomes regarding something in which we are so deeply invested. What does that look like?! God is WAAAAY more capable and creative than I am. Always I want what is best in any situation for the most people. So always what I want is God’s will, not my limited version of planning and anticipation. This is not to diminish personal gifts and abilities, it is to Glorify the One who gave them to each one of us and has Ways beyond our wildest imaginations. Thank you!
How does it feel to be vulnerable enough to reach out to God, knowing that as far as the future goes, we are blind folded and every day is a trust walk? I am reminded of the Footprints in the Sand story. But instead of looking back at how God has worked in my life, I take that comfort and spread it before me like a daring red carpet!
May we each know that our every step and every breath is known and inhabited by God whether we are conscious of it or not. May we have the faith and courage to let God do the hard work through us, and just take one step at a time onto the red carpet of faith.