I wrap my arms around my wife and she stands perfectly still, her arms pinned to her sides. Holding her tightly, I take a huuuuge step to the left. Keeping her feet together, she lets me ‘lean’ her whole body, squealing and giggling as the incline increases. I bring her up and head in the opposite direction and she squeals and giggles again. Her joy’s infectious and I giggle, too. Of course, the fact that my Heidi Ann is so cute when she giggles doesn’t hurt, or that her eyes sparkle and dance like sunlight on still water when she’s joyful. But there I go running after
another distractingly shiny thought when I should be telling my story.
This is our leaning game. The thrill of simply letting her body fall to one side or the other as I hold her is fun and exciting to her. Now what does it create in her that would cause such a reaction? After all, it’s unnatural. Letting yourself fall is plain wrong. It’s against our inborn self-preservation reflex. As you begin to lean beyond that invisible line where gravity is about to have its inevitable way, the leg automatically lifts, reaching with the foot in search of stable ground, the hand might even rise for additional balance. All this happens while the adrenalin flow increases and your heart pumps a bit faster. You catch your balance; sigh in relief and life is nice and safe once again. That’s a natural response.
Heidi loves our leaning game. Leaning left, leaning right, she loves it. And the truth is, I love it, too, albeit for reasons much different than hers.
In fact, I just asked her why it was fun for her. I found myself starting to anticipate her answer, and she found me doing that, too, and put a quick stop to it, reminding me NOT to put words in her mouth just to validate my point (our wives know us sooo well).
She said, “It’s more about my history of doing this. You’ve never dropped me and it’s exciting knowing I can lean so far without worrying; like one of those crazy rides at Six Flags or Cedar Point where you plummet but don’t hit the ground.” She then reminded me that the first time I drop her is the LAST time we’ll ever play the leaning game. Message received loud and clear. So what exists that allows us both to enjoy her falling?
It’s Heidi’s trust in me. Now don’t start assuming anything. This won’t be an ego-building explanation for yours truly, I promise. That’s not where I’m going, so just settle down and stick with me. We’re almost there. You see; without me there to support her, it gets ugly. I’m the one keeping her from going splat, defying gravity and restoring her to her original upright position once the flight is over. This is a matter of truth, an unarguable fact. I am necessary for her to enjoy our falling game.
What I’m about to tell you always reminds me of a scene from an old sitcom called Gilligan’s Island (if you don’t remember, ask your mom). Gilligan’s made these wings out of straw and there he is, flapping his arms as he’s flying and the skipper sees him and says, “Gilligan! You can’t fly!” Gilligan, still flying in place, replies, “I can’t?” and the skipper answers, “No!” So, of course, Gilligan falls. The fact that I can support Heidi’s body weight (not that it’s hard, sweetheart!) and keep her from being hurt is not predicated on her believing that I can. It’s a truth, whether or not she chooses to accept it as such, and her disbelief wouldn’t and couldn’t alter the facts.
For Heidi, it was never a fact until the first time she leaned. I could tell her all day long how there was no possible way I would drop her, how I would never even offer to hold her as she leaned if I had any doubts. She might eventually give in and try it, but up until the very moment she tried, she’d have serious doubt.
It wasn’t until we played the leaning game for the very first time that she really (as Vivian Smith used to say) ‘knew in her knower’. So for my ability to protect her from falling to become more than a promise in her mind, she first had to exercise some faith. She had to believe in what she hadn’t yet seen, which was me supporting her. She had to let me hold her as she reclined at an angle impossible to maintain her balance on her own. She had to go against her very nature and deny the primal, human urge to stay upright and trust herself over me.
The first time she leaned was the biggest example of faith. The second time was easier (and each time thereafter) because now she had experiential knowledge. We’d established a history at which she could mentally point and say, ‘it’s ok, he never drops me.’
So how, as her husband, does the leaning game make me so joyful? That’s pretty simple. Knowing she trusts me enough to lean, believing I won’t let her fall, fills my heart with all sorts of wonderful things. Seeing her eyes grow wide and feeling her tense against my arms tells me there’s a tiny bit of fear there. The fact that she still leans tells me that she trusts me and as her husband, that blesses me big time. When there’s a risk that comes with the trusting, it seems to mean more. And what husband doesn’t love seeing his wife joyful?
Yeah, you see it now…you probably saw where we were headed quite a few paragraphs ago, didn’t you? If you didn’t, don’t feel badly. Here’s the very elementary but oh-so-wonderful-to-revisit reveal (MUCH shorter since Heidi pointed out it was way too long):
Faith isn’t faith until it’s tested. His Word is FULL of examples of how, in the midst of a terrible trial, faith in what couldn’t be seen, what couldn’t be known resulted in deliverance, healing, restoration and uncountable blessings.
The very things we fear are opportunities to realize/experience the character, the very heart of Daddy God! Every financial struggle is an opportunity to lean…and to learn (Malachi 3:10). Every time we suffer, it’s a reminder that by leaning now in the midst of the suffering, we’ll eventually stand in glory (Romans 8:17). IF you want the comfort, the glory, the eternal peace of Him, then suffering is simply part of the package. (2 Corinthians 1:5, 1 Peter 1:11)
By exercising our faith, we develop a history of seeing what a perfect Father does when His children cry out to Him, and our faith in Him is continuously justified. And here’s something else to remember. Abraham believed in the Lord and it was credited to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:5-7) By acting in faith, we’re honoring Daddy God, giving our faith muscle and adding strength to the love we confess for Him.
So run to Him. When you want to feel the power of the holy, uncreated One, run and ask Him to wrap His arms around you. When you can’t imagine how you’ll ever get out of the bind you’re in, run to Him, talk to Him, cry out to Him and watch what happens. If you’re lacking the faith to trust Him, tell Him about your faithlessness and He will remain faithful. Just lean. It’s ok. You may lean so far it frightens you, but if His arms are around you, you’ll never fall. (Proverbs 3:5-6)