“Helpless” is the song that’s playing as I get up and turn on the radio and plug in the computer. It’s K.D. Lang’s version of Neil Young’s classic. Helpless is the state that takes us beneath our thoughts. When we realize that there is nothing we can think of doing, saying, or thinking that will change the way things are. We come to the helpless place disarmed.
If i let go. My shield and armor melts away. If i let go of my strength, my abilities, my ideas, my hopes – the lies and jokes and prayers I recite over and over all day that protect me, propel me, keep the smile on my face.
If i let go – it’s not willingly - because I’m afraid that without my armor I will be overcome, I will be lost, I will drown in the fear and pain built up behind the dam that only my conscious mind, my resistance, my positive thinking - holds at bay.
When you’re at the end of your rope. When you can no longer stay awake. When you breathe out all of your oxygen and see how long you can last without inspiration. You know – you don’t have to think about it – you know, you feel, you experience - helplessness.
Try it. Take a couple of good deep breaths. Then, as you expire for the third time – don’t breathe in. Puff out the last of the oxygen in your lungs and just wait. Wait until the craving for air starts. Then wait just a little more. Wait until the panic rises – just a bit. And then take a breath back in - enjoying the “inspiration”.
Ready? Let’s try it. It’s not a competition and no need to push yourself too far. Just experience being without air. Okay? Take a couple of deep breaths. Now, take a third breath and let it all out.
Do you feel the craving? Can you feel the panic rising? Then breathe! Whew – we survived. We can practice this art with most of our daily experiences of helplessness.
That little exercise helps to rebalance the oxygen in your blood with the carbon dioxide present there as well. It’s a Life and Death balancing act. It’s a little technique that is healthy, rebalancing, re-energizing – and you can do it anywhere, anytime. Even during a long sermon – without the preacher knowing. Of course napping accomplishes much the same but some preachers take it personally. For me, I know that at least one person in the congregation is getting something out of the time spent.
LORD YOU give life. And YOU take it away. A woman waits while her children consult with the doctors and social workers. She knows they are going to tell her she can never go home again. She lets go. The world has turned - the pull of its momentum drags her away. She’s a little girl clinging to the handrail with all her might. But her father is stronger and he pulls her away from her play to go to school, to her future, to the place where finally she’ll let her last breath go.
LORD YOU give life and YOU take it away. A man has fewer and fewer lucid moments. The woman who feeds him is not the nurse. Her knows her. A part of him that doesn’t rely on his mind reverberates like a tuning fork deep inside him. Her eyes strike that chord deep within him. She is his soul mate. The one who rings his bell. The bell his mother gave him. The bell, upturned and empty, that the MAKER will still strike when mind and body are laid to rest.
Most weekends my son David and I go swimming in a public pool. Last time, I found myself almost alone in the deep end where David likes to be. I lifted my face up to the air and let go of my long body. I sink like a rock. Those distant feet - that take me into today’s adventures and worries - drop down into the stillness and threaten to pull me under. It’s only because I fill my lungs with the Holy inSpiration that I’m lifted and sustained. I let the breath go and without the Source in me - gravity wins - the world’s spin pulls me down towards my next birthday.
The pool is the bell. I am the striker.
My lungs are the bell. YOUR WORD LORD is the striker.
The soul is the bell. YOUR silent presence is what strikes me as the only real thing. I can’t find it for looking. Only when I stop looking, give up, sigh – suddenly it’s there.
The summer is gone.
I’m no longer young.
I’m neither boy nor sage.
If I let go of who I was - then who might I be?
Will I drown in the mistakes deep behind the dam?
If I empty my lungs - will you breathe into me Adam’s first breath?
Will you breathe into me Jesus as the resurrected ONE, like YOU breathed into your disciples a new way?
Will the chord that’s struck in silence get me through the day?
Will those moments between deep breaths – when breathing stops get longer as I learn to trust that it’s not YOU that gives life or takes it away?
I begin to know, remember, discover anew that there is no death, no end, no beginning that hasn’t already begun. That there is nothing I can hold onto. That there is nothing to lose. That only when I let it all go does it all come together.
Here is the Sermon on the Mount Jesus’ words in the fresh translation from Eugene Peterson from “THE MESSAGE”
When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and God’s rule.
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. God is food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
Matthew 5 The Beatitudes from “The Message” By Eugene Peterson)