Tag Archive: relief

a jumble of similes

Here is something I wrote on 5/8/10. I found it again today.

like teasing out knotted hair,
like scrubbing clean dirty skin,
like resting weary eyes,
like tea on a cold night,
like squeezing out a wooden splinter,
like music that sings your heart,
like walking in the crisp morning air,
like running through the dead of night.

this is the relief honest conversation lends.


This was born out of a season of frustration.

Time and time again I had tried to improve myself by trying harder. To love people more selflessly; to honour God more fully; to die to myself and live for Him who died to bring me life. But these were goals unattainable to my own resources. I got to a pretty low point, where I just felt a bit battered, to be honest.

That’s the thing about the grace, though. It comes and ministers to you when you are most broken. Like a cool breeze on a stifling night, grace whispers that you will never have enough fuel to be enough; but that that is the point. You don’t have to muster it. You can stop striving.

There is an inarticulable release over your heart when you abide in grace. Falling to your knees to cry for help isn’t so much an experience like grazing your knees before a stony and distant dictator, who will consider your plea with callous disregard. It’s more like crumpling into your sofa after a horrible day, sobbing without dignity, and just letting your confusion, vulnerability and inability to do it all be transparent before your father as he collects you in his strong arms and lets you feel a strange comfort in dropping your bundle at his feet.

The closest approximation I can give is this:

It was a few months ago, I think. I had overloaded my day with things to do, and was already running late when I sauntered up to get the train. I passed a neighbour whose Mum had been very ill, and he unloaded everything on his mind to me. Twenty minutes later, I was meant to be at my destination, coffee ordered, and catching up with another friend. I called ahead to apologise and got a stony reception. I remember the moment when my heart breached its capacity. Climbing the stairs, two at a time, I had reached the top when the pins began to needle my eyes. Two steps further, and it was like I had been physically bruised. This sounds melodramatic, and I certainly felt embarrassed, but, in short, I began to tear up, then turned around and ran home. By the time I fumbled my key through the keyhole and prized the door open, I was sobbing. But in those silent sobs that sound more like emphysema than tears. My brother was at the piano just adjacent to the door, and I could just hear him call my name over the music thudding in my ears. He came from behind, and silently took my arm, swiveled me around, laid my bag on the ground and wrapped me in his arms.

That moment was the safest I have ever felt in my entire life. I just cried and cried like a little girl, but he didn’t care and neither did I. Five minutes past before I began to speak, but when I did, the things I spoke of were so unfiltered that I was surprised I was letting my brother see my thoughts for what they were: of how even when I try with all I am to please people, I still let them down, time and time again; about my devastating lovelessness for other people’s pain; about my claustrophobic selfishness; about my overwhelming tiredness that resides in the marrow of my frame. As I spoke these words, unveiling the most undesirable parts of my self, my brother said nothing. He just held me with his strong arms and let me deconstruct the facades I painted myself with each morning. When I had finished, he spoke gentle words that filled my heart like the crisp air of a morning run after a night in a stuffy room. The relief I felt was physical.

What I’m trying to illustrate in this tangential rambling is that sometimes we have to get to a point where we have been so assaulted by life that we are just too tired to try to fix it all anymore. We have to get to a point where we feel in our bodies, not just know in abstraction, that we can’t. We just can’t.

Sometimes that resignation can lead to a disengagement from the troubles of the world. ‘If I can’t fix it, I will detach from it.’ For me, it’s usually the point when I feel almost numb and indifferent to the pain of others that I realise that my heart has reached its saturation point. When I went to pray for the people traumatised by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan yesterday, I felt nothing. I tried to conjure up empathy, but none was forthcoming. I realised that it had been building for weeks; in disinterest towards a friend’s burdens, an absence of any desire to go out of my way to show love to those in need… It builds silently, but its mortar is robust. For me, it takes the painful realisation that not even detachment will insulate me from everything that is broken before I let my guard down.

It’s from that posture that we can run to our Father and collapse into His arms, and be real about our inadequacies. When I stop spending my energy holding up the pretence I have constructed about my competencies to do it myself, and (I’m sorry if this is unbearably sentimental and cliched for you) literally just cry it out to Him who is able… the relief is palpable.

Anyway, I’m sorry if that was a bit over the top for you. That’s me! Melodrama Central.

The point of all that was to say that crying to God for help, rather than trying to manufacture the things you observe as deficient in yourself, is not only healthier for your sanity. It’s also practically far more fruitful.

This is a song some friends and I wrote. It’s kind of about that cry for help.