Thursday, September 06, 2012

Barely Hanging On

What can you do for the people you know who are barely hanging on? Especially when you are the one barely hanging on. What do you do when it seems to you like almost everyone is barely hanging on.

Except that you wouldn't know it by looking at them.

What you see isn't always what you get. You see people and you think they have it all together because that's how they act. So then you feel bad for not having it all together like all those people.

And you wonder what their secret is, and how you can learn that secret so that you don't have to feel like you are barely hanging on, so you can have it all together like them.

But then you find out that they don't have it all together, that they are actually barely hanging on. So then you feel betrayed. Here you were, beating yourself up for not having it all together like them, when all along they were barely hanging on just like you. Well, not just like you. Everybody is barely hanging on, just in different ways.

Well, not everybody. Some people actually have it all together. But they've got to work so hard to have it all together that they don't have much time or energy left over to help others who are barely hanging on to find a way to get it all together. So basically people that are barely hanging on have to start hanging out together. At least if you are going to be barely hanging on, you might as well barely hang on with others. Why be lonely when you're barely hanging on?

Except that it's embarrassing to admit that you are barely hanging on. People will look at you and wonder what is wrong with you. Except that most people who are judging you are also barely hanging on. Oh the irony.

So why is it so hard to let others know that you are barely hanging on? Is it because of denial? Or is it false hope, that I'm only barely hanging on for just a bit longer - so why admit to something that won't be true of me in a short time. Except that you do end up staying that way. And stay in denial. A weird denial; you seem to be crystal clear with yourself about barely hanging on, yet obscuring the truth towards others about your clinging. Is there shame in barely hanging on?

It seems to be such a universal experience - millions of people all barely hanging on and all ashamed about it, all committed to keeping it a secret. If everyone would just come clean with the people in your life about barely hanging on, maybe, just maybe, we'd find that what we call barely hanging on is not so bad. Maybe what we call barely hanging on is normal.

Maybe what we are barely hanging on to isn't worth it.

Maybe trying to be busier than God intends isn't worth it.

Maybe trying to make more money to afford more material possessions isn't worth it.

Maybe trying to make yourself so happy or fulfilled isn't worth it.

Maybe it's okay to fight with the people in your life, to not be content, to be unsettled and dissatisfied.

Maybe we don't have to want to be like other people.

Maybe we should just let go of what we are barely hanging on to. Maybe we'll find that the fog around our feet is hiding the ledge that is inches below our toes. Maybe we're barely hanging on to something that God's fine with us not having anymore.

Maybe we want more for ourselves in this life than God wants for us.

Maybe God's not interested in giving us more then we need.

Maybe we confuse the things we have for the things we need, and we attribute to God gifts that he didn't give or care about. Does God really care about you having a bigger house? Does God really care about you having a safer car? Does God really care about you getting a flatter TV? Does God really care about you having the perfect marriage and kids?

Maybe God doesn't care about any of those things in and of themselves. Maybe God put the fog around your feet so that you'd pay attention to what you're hanging on to. Maybe God wants you to notice what you are barely hanging on to and make a decision about it.

Maybe God isn't answering your prayers for help amidst your barely hanging on because he doesn't want you to hang on anymore. Are you barely hanging on to your marriage? Are you barely hanging on to your kids? Are you barely hanging on to your home? Are you barely hanging on to your job? Are you barely hanging on to your health? Are you barely hanging on to your friends?

Maybe it's not that God wants you to let go of your marriage, your kids, your job, your life - but God does want you to let go of the expectations and assumptions you have about them. If you expect someone to always make you happier, if you expect a job to always satisfy you, if you expect your kids to be more than they can be, if you expect life to give you more than it owes you - then yes, you'll continue to barely hang on to a ledge that leads to nowhere.

But maybe you'll finally decide you're tired of barely hanging on, you'll admit that you're tired of barely hanging on, you'll let others know you're tired of barely hanging on, and then someday maybe you'll quit barely hanging on.

And you'll discover that in letting go you finally stood firm on your feet instead of grasping with aching fingers. When you land on your feet, you may find that there are still intractable problems and insatiable desires. But instead of equating success with solving all problems and satisfying all desires, you'll be bravely honest enough to accept life as it is.

Accepting your life as it is allows you to hear the words of Jesus as spoken to you as you really are, not the you that you were barely hanging on to, a you that didn't really exist except in your fantasies.

And by hitting the fog-laced ledge with your feet, now it becomes possible to follow the way of Jesus in life as it really is, not just with your head and grasping hands.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. [Romans 15v5-7]

So if all of us who are barely hanging on will just accept one another in the same way that Jesus accepts us, maybe we'll have the courage to let go? Maybe instead of expending so much energy on ourselves and our clinging, we accept from God the endurance and encouragement he's willing to give for the life we really have, not the one we wish we had. And maybe this would help us to see people as they really are - not as ones who have it all together, but as ones who are barely hanging on. Maybe if we can learn to glorify God as we're barely hanging on, we'll someday be willing to praise God standing on our feet.

I know, I know, it just looks like there are so many people who have it all together. So many people, who despite their problems still seem to be happy and worry free. You see them smiling, you see the ways they are blessed, how they seem to work through obstacles with ease, the same obstacles that seem to trip you up.

Yes, all those people who you think are successful and don't fit into the category of barely hanging on - there are some of them. But for most of those people you think have it all together, there's something in their life, something important, something they care deeply about that is not going well. And in that area of their life, they are barely hanging on. And it's in that clinging, that concern, that worry, that fear that God meets them and invites them to trust.

People don't have it as together as you'd like to think. But regardless of whether you think they are barely hanging on or not, what matters more is you - you can't cling and take God's hand at the same time. Either you continue to choose to barely hang on or you trustingly take God's hand and let him lower you down on the fog-laced ledge.

And quit looking at other people and judging for yourselves whether they are barely hanging on or having it all together. Quit comparing people. You barely know their story. Pay attention to your own story.

You don't have to keep barely hanging on anymore. And you don't have to keep comparing yourself to others anymore. You don't have to. You don't. But if you do, if you continue to barely hang on, I understand.


Terry L Leatherman said...

Its a hard realization that you've been barely hanging on all your life. But harder is realizing that I may have never heard a word Jesus was saying to me.

chuck said...

Great post written out of real perspective. Thanks for posting Tim. - chuck

Jenn Vergon said...

I know you are on sabbatical. I have restrained myself from commenting on so many inspiring things you have posted. I want to truly thank you for this today even if it was written months ago. This month has been the breaking point of our lives. Now what to do with it is all in God's Hands.