There’s something ironic, even tragic, about feeling down-and-out. We don’t want to reach out. In fact, a common symptom of depression is isolation. Thinking we’re too much. Thinking we’re weird. Thinking we don’t want to burden anyone. Thinking we just need to get it together—pull ourselves up by our bootstraps—put on a happy face. Then we’ll be fine. Thinking we’d rather do just about anything other than connect.
And where does such thinking get us, really? Do we get happy? Or do we flounder, sink deeper, yet hope we can skirt the black hole of despair—alone?
Surely, reading our Bible can help. Surely, praying can help.
But sometimes, the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading and prayer still leave us needing more. Perhaps the “more” is a gift of God also, if we’d risk being a bit more vulnerable.
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I had my time of quiet like I do every morning. I read Romans and Psalms. I prayed for those I care about, for the world, for our country, for myself. Then, I went about my day.
I stepped off the front porch and onto the lawn, under the honey locust tree shedding its yellowed leaves. I went to collect the last harvest.
Hot had turned chilly overnight. Sunny had turned cloudy, yesterday to today.
Hours later, the heavens broke. The skies cried.
Out in the west pasture, our horses ran for cover.
But there was none.
Not in the pasture farthest from the barn.
Our horses were stranded.
I didn’t venture out in the rain to help them.
Of course, I felt for them. I prayed for them.
But I didn’t want to get wet for them. I wanted to stay in my own comfortable place. But I prayed they’d wait patiently for God to deliver clear skies for them.
I wasn’t there for them.
Not as I could have been.
I felt for them. And, of course, I prayed for them, from where I was dry and comfortable. But I wasn’t there for them. Not as they needed. Not out in the rain.
My pious prayers left them cold, wet, and scared.
When they needed me most, I decided to stay cozy and dry.
Still, after the rain, they were grateful when I came. I could tell. They trotted up to me quickly and let me slip the halters over their heads. These 1100 pound animals let me lead them a hundred yards back to the barn where they felt safe and comfortable.
But I wondered.
Had they lost a bit of trust in me? Did they doubt I might be there for them the next time they felt fear? That I’d just offer up a prayer from somewhere where I didn’t have to get too close?
Of course, horses don’t think such thoughts! I justified my lack of action. But I know better. Even when creatures can’t think, they still feel.
Did I let them down? When they had need, where was I?
I feel the same need, some days, like yesterday. I get stuck in a place where I can’t find comforting shelter. When tears turns all upside down.
I tell myself . . .
Pray more. Count your blessings. Be grateful. Don’t focus on your problems because plenty of people have it worse off than you.
Certainly, there’s much positive that comes from prayer and an attitude of gratitude.
But my self-command to be grateful and count my blessings sometimes feels like a horse whip—prodding, beating.
Somehow, being grateful and counting my blessings can still leave me feeling lonely, unheard, unloved. I know God loves me but I need to feel that love through human words filtered through a Christ-like heart.
Yesterday, I needed Jesus with skin on. I needed Jesus who knows what it feels like to be lonely and hurting. I needed Jesus who will hold me in heart, if not in arms.
So I picked up my cell and texted a friend, even though everything in me screamed NOOOOO! Don’t be vulnerable!
I texted . . .
Please pray extra for me. Having a hard time.
I didn’t want to bother her. I didn’t want to burden her. I didn’t want to risk more rejection because of too much emotion. After all, I know she’s not Jesus.
And then . . .
My phone rang. It was her. I picked it up, reluctantly.
She wanted to know how I was. Really.
She listened. She didn’t question. At least not my sanity or my Christianity.
And she consoled me in my sore places.
She found connection points—where my experience matched hers—and she told me how we’re the same in some ways.
I could feel she only wanted to help me know the most comforting truth.
I’m not alone.
And her intention cut through her not-quite-right intervention. Because I felt her love, I didn’t need her to say something perfect.
I know only Jesus is perfect. But I didn’t need perfect. I needed love.
I needed a heart that’s been broken. Who isn’t afraid to admit that life’s hard and painful and downright awful sometimes.
Her “mistakes” in loving me didn’t matter at all.
Only her own vulnerable reality.
And this made all the difference.
We don’t have to know how to love perfectly. When our intent is to care for another, God makes a way for His love to flow through the broken.
I’ll take this imperfect love. Every time. It’s quite perfect. For me.
When I’m down-and-out, I’ll take God’s love however it comes. The deliverer need not be perfect—just willing—and honest—and equally vulnerable.
Sometimes, God’s love flows best when we go against our own grain. Our self-protecting moats of our perfection ego-castles. When we stop telling ourselves to stay where we’re comfortable, where we’re not vulnerable, where we hide behind stone walls where we can’t be touched or touch.
Sometimes our cure comes when we reach out to Jesus with skin on—the human conduits of His holy. Those who dare to be rare—who dare to be real.
Does getting out of our comfort zones with each other fix all our problems? No. But reaching out for Jesus and accepting His gifts, however they come, is the best answer to our greatest problem—lack of genuine connection.
After the storm, back in the barn, I stepped into each stall, each horse waiting for feeding. I nuzzled my nose in their necks.
One whinnied. All leaned in.
I took all as thanks for loving, as imperfectly as I did during the rain. All was well, once again. Next time, I’ll keep a closer eye on the weather—in the sky and in the eyes of those souls who may need Jesus—with skin on.