(Don’t) Brace Yourself

Whether someone is being threatened by a tsunami wave on the deck of a ship, facing a blizzard in a tiny mountain cottage, or waiting in a doctor’s office to hear the results of a big test, the preparation message is the same:

Brace yourself.

A steeling of the spine, a gritting of teeth, and a bout of temporary gospel amnesia usually follow.

Americans tend to be good at this bracing ourselves thing. We summon up every ounce of strength available and ready ourselves for the worst. The kingdom, as always, is run by a different rhythm entirely—the rhythm of leaning.

Leaning can seem like the scariest action imaginable because it’s the release of any semblance of self-sufficiency. (And somewhere along the way, many of us have learned that self-sufficiency is the only path to safety.) Bonus: leaning is also a death-blow to our pride since it feels an awful lot like melting into a heap of hot mess.

And who could love a heap of hot mess?

Oh, friend, the Father runs to hot messes. His heart beats hard for the worst and weakest moments we have to offer. It’s only when we stop bracing ourselves that we feel the everlasting arms embracing us. And His presence is the safest place to be.

There’s a funny little structure in the South called a lean-to that depends on a larger, more stable, more permanent building for its strength. When the rafters are removed from the supporting wall, it falls to pieces.

What a picture of our souls. We were never designed to stand on our own, to absorb the full impact of life alone.

Because of the cross, there’s no need to brace ourselves anymore. The absolute worst-case scenario was poured out onto Jesus in our place, and all that’s left for us is love. Unpleasant news might come, but we can hold onto the promise that it’s stuffed with purpose. Those hands pierced bloody for us hold us close in the middle of the storms. And with all the saints who have gone before, attesting to God’s faithfulness, we can sing:

Leaning, leaning,

Safe and secure from all alarms.

Leaning, leaning,

Leaning on the everlasting arms.

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