Learning to Lean

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by Camerin Courtney
June 2, 2004

It's been a tough week. I'd tell you more about it, but I can't quite write about it yet without bawling my eyes out. Suffice it to say, it's been one of those "worst of times" of the singleness experience.

Between the tears and pleading with God for peace or understanding or comfort or something, anything but what I've been feeling, I've been learning a valuable lesson. I've been learning to lean.

You see, in my falling apart and in my not wanting to be alone right now, I've had no choice but to pick up the phone and call my friends and my family. And these amazing folks have been God's hands and feet, his arms and shoulders to me.

My friend LaTonya brought over some funny movies, microwave popcorn, and chocolate one night. My friend Lori had lunch with me one day and never once glanced at her watch during our two-hour meal while I poured out my heart-and a few tears. My sister and brother-in-law sent me flowers and a note of encouragement. And my parents welcomed me with open arms (and copious amounts of Kleenex) when I took a last-minute trip home to recoup.

In short, I've been loved on and supported big time. Not only has this been a salve to my wounded heart, it's been a lesson in the benefit of leaning on others.

I realize, in retrospect, that often in milder tough times, I all too often tough it out, soldier on, cope on my own and carry on. Sure, sometimes that's what we need to do, so we don't become codependent on others. But sometimes, I'm realizing, my failure to pick up the phone in a tough moment has been more about my pride, or not wanting to inconvenience others or bring them down. And that flies in the face of the kind of community set up by Jesus, who not only ate, traveled, worked, and prayed with others, but who also cried with them in their distress and reached out to them, literally, in their brokenness.

The events of the past week have opened my eyes to the temptation in my solo home to be a bit of an island. A little world of just me and my thoughts, joys, issues, and sorrows. And while I love being able to enjoy my own company, and think that's a healthy skill for singles to have, I'm now realizing some of the ill effects of too much going it alone. It can create unnecessary loneliness and can compound difficult situations with the thought that we have to handle the tough stuff all on our own. Admittedly, those of us who live alone have to be much more intentional about leaning on others, as there's no one right there in our home to see our tears and our tragedies. But I'm beginning to see afresh how important and altogether necessary those phone calls and vulnerable requests for some support are.

French philosopher Simone Weil once said, "The love of our neighbor in all its fullness simply means being able to say, 'What are you going through?'" I have a feeling there's an inverse truth here, too, of being willing at times to open up and share with others our broken places, our broken hearts. Allowing others the chance to carry us in prayer when all we can mutter is a tearful "Help, God." And allowing God to answer that prayer with the physical arms to hold us and shoulders to lean on we so often crave, by mobilizing those who love us to prop us up and help us move forward to better days.

When my tears have dried, when my heart has completely mended, I'm hoping I'll remember this truth. Maybe this is the first bit of good God is bringing from this tough situation, a first glimpse at the beauty he's bringing from these ashes (Isaiah 61:3).

Camerin Courtney

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