Jesus' 21st century hands

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I walk past the billboard declaring, “Mental health affects everyone. On January 31st, let’s talk about it.” When my brain finally makes the connection, I find it mildly ironic that January 31st is the day my lease ends, one factor in the saga of the past few months that has tipped me into a depression for which I’m having to take antidepressant medication for the first time in my life.
The timing has not been convenient. (Is a disruption like that ever convenient?) Almost everything about moving requires making a series of decisions: choosing where to move, what to pack and what to sell or give away, trying to sort out what I’ll need for the next three months and what can be tucked away in the boxes that aren’t to be opened until after I almost certainly need to move again in three months’ time. (To where? That will be another matter for discernment and decision.) All these decisions are a problem for someone in the midst of a depression where even the simplest daily decisions seem almost impossible.
I’ve needed my friends: one to look at possible apartments with me, another to help me see how to fit my few remaining pieces of furniture into my temporary new room to make a little corner that can feel like home, and to pack some things and suggest a few concrete next steps for me to take. One to bring a meal and pray and sit with me for a few hours when I could no longer bear to be alone with my thoughts. A friend from my spiritual director course will help move furniture and boxes on moving day, and another from Regent days will help clean. Most have done several of those things and I have been so touched by their sacrificial love. I want to love like that.
I still find it hard to need help.
I find it harder to need help for mental health limitations than for physical health ones. (Why is that, I wonder?)
I’ve thought my resistance to needing help is because I care about the needs of others and don’t want to bother them with mine. I suspect the deeper reason is pride, an extension of the lie in the garden that it’s possible to be like God, limitless and without needs.
Once again I’m learning what I’ve experienced so many times before: it’s only in the places of weakness and vulnerability and opening ourselves to receive that we learn how loved we are. Grace is not a concept; it’s a person and an action, embodied once in first century Palestine and continually enfleshed as His body lives on in 21st century Vancouver and around the world. I receive grace not just in letting Jesus lift my sins, not just in baptism and bread and wine, but in boxes packed and sinks scrubbed and hands laid on my shoulders to pray in moments when presence and touch matters more than words. As often as not, it’s through Jesus’ 21st century hands that I experience God’s unfailing kindness.
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Two days before I was diagnosed and started on meds, a friend took me for the first time to a new soul care group. New groups are often a struggle for me, but this group of six people felt like a gift from the moment they opened the door and welcomed me into an evening of colour in a long stretch of darkness. We ate delicious tortilla soup and kale salad and walnut bread, and by the time we lingered together over prayer and communion, the couplet in the prayer we were praying had settled deep in me:

Let me not run from the love that you offer,
But hold me safe from the forces of evil.

Someone read it again, aloud, this time in plural: “Let us not run from the love that you offer, but hold us safe. . .”
Safely held. Those two words have lingered with me through the almost two weeks since that meeting, through the diagnosis and the new meds and the receiving of help and the still not knowing which address I’ll be travelling from when I meet with that group three or four months down the road. Part of our safely held is Jesus’ 21st century body, and being in this together. Safely held in the hands that hold the universe, yes, and, when I don’t run, in each set of hands through which our present and active God chooses to offer himself to me, packing, scrubbing, praying, hugging, and feeding me with his unfailing kindness as he also, in his kindness, continues to give me small ways to pass his love along to others.

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This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. lucille funk

    My struggle is so different than yours but your words are helpful to me. Thanks. Different issues but God will help both of us.

  2. Roy

    Thank you Lordfor community. For always being near even when our senses struggle to notice. Your vulnerability is a blessing thank you for sharing and I continue to pray for this transition and provision for these very real needs. Roy

  3. hallwork

    Beautiful and brave to share honest weakness. Your burden is on my heart now, and causes me to reflect on what self-strengths I may be clinging to. Would I be willing to face my pride to not be weak and dependent? Would I let down my pride to allow others (really Himself) care for me? Sometimes He takes us there. I pray He will bring closure and peace to this season you’re in, and I pray you’ll rejoice looking back. What really shines in your post is you pointing the light on Him working and caring for you through His body. It’s like the churches in Acts, they cared and looked after one another. His body on earth.

    1. hearingtheheartbeat

      Thanks for these reflections and for your prayers. I’m so glad that what came through is God’s care. I am so aware of that in this journey!

  4. Elaine Orthner Lewis

    I have realized while walking through the hard patches in my life and in the lives of others that when we refuse to allow people to share God’s love through their caring for us, we are denying them the joy that comes in using the gifts God has given them to bless others. Sometimes I need to remind myself to think of the times when my offerings of care to others are refused before I decline their offers.

  5. Paul Pitt

    Dear Caroli (one of your several strong names),
    You are very precious.
    Because you are real.
    Because you have learned to be quite honest when it ain’t so easy.
    Because you are very, very strong.
    Because you open yourself in intense vulnerability that others, like me, might learn humility, relinquishment and trust.
    Because your life is “a long obedience in the same direction”, of courage, of hope, of mentorship, of wordless leadership, of word- adequate leadership, of word-appropriate leadership.
    Of perseverance.
    Of creativity.
    Of incredible vitality.
    Each time I read your “Heartbeat” I end with tears of joy and hope and thankfulness — as well as real tears for not learning. As well as happy thoughts of you.
    You are very precious. To us. To Jesus, unimaginably.
    I know that compliments and commendation and accolades are not what you desire. You care about the “well-done” of Jesus.
    Your “helplessness” (reality) that thrusts you into his care again and again and again and of which you are able to write and speak and share is the “one thing needed” by most of us — that we might learn to walk transparently with him and in him and he and us, as you do.
    Loads of love,
    Uncle Paul and aunt Ruthie

  6. Tanya Thiessen

    Why is your name nowhere to be found on your emails? I want to have a name to connect to your words! I like you but I don’t know your name!
    Sent from my iPad

    1. hearingtheheartbeat

      Hi Tanya,
      Sorry about that! My name is on my blog but I guess not on each post which is emailed out. I’m Carolyn Watts, and if you want to know a little more of my story and see a picture of me, you can look here:
      Thanks for connecting, Carolyn

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