Getting Yourself Off Your Hands and Catching Your Breath, Guest Writer: Laina Graf

What is having yourself on your hands?

You all know.  You know what it is like to walk into a room, feeling a little insecure and wondering, will I know anyone? Am I dressed appropriately?  Will my needs be met?  

When I cater, I invariably have someone come through the food line and ask “is there anything I can eat?”….I think to myself, ‘well unless you’re one of my alpacas, and can only eat grass….there is plenty for you to graze on!’.

We lead a smaller church in our barn on Sunday nights…and we end by eating dinner together.   

There is a woman in our barn community who drives my children crazy. When they come to me complaining about her, I tell them that God is writing a big grand adventure story, and in order for it to be interesting, he weaves in characters with unique idiosyncrasies.  How boring would life be without these characters in the story. 

We will name this woman Grace. I know that when “Grace” arrives, she will be-line for me, interrupt whatever conversation I am in, apologize for interrupting, and then keep talking about herself anyway. She’s the first in line for dinner and the first to complain if there isn’t anything that “she” can eat.  She talks frequently about how her husband doesn’t meet her needs and her kids are annoying.  She has herself on her hands.

But Grace was dropped, and kicked around… If you knew her story, it is no wonder that she scooped herself up at a young age. Getting stuck, at a child’s developmental stage, and has been carrying herself around ever since.

Last night, I catered a rather large event. My 3 year old Grandson Levi was there, and followed me around, oblivious of all that I was juggling, saying “Honey (that is what he calls me), member when you gave me bubble gum one time?”  After several reminders from him, I desperately found gum and gave it to him thinking it would buy me some brain space. A minute later I heard “Honey, member when you gave me another piece of bubble gum one time?” To which I stopped what I was doing, looked at him and said “Levi, did you swallow it?”  He quickly responded “NO!  I chewed it and I ate it!”

Behavior like this, unaware of others, is charming in a 3 year old. It is unbecoming in an adult.

Here’s the truth, you’ve been dropped too. You likely have areas where you have scooped yourself up, carrying yourself around, making sure that you will never be hurt like that again.

Another way to say it, is you’ve had the wind knocked out of you. If you haven’t, just wait…no one gets through life unscathed.

Maybe it was when your dad didn’t stick around.  Maybe your spouse betrayed you. Or someone you loved was lost. 

Moments like those can suck the life right out of your soul, steal the breath from your lungs and as life begins to beat you up, a small voice lies to you and tells you that you are alone.  So you pick yourself up determined to self protect.

I have way to many stories like these in my own life, I will share but one.

It was the night I got a call from my father that my cousin had been shot and killed by the police.  Amy’s story is tragic, one I will never fully understand, but it all started with pot in high school….ended up with heroine….and now she’s dead.

After coming home from her funeral, reeling and raw, we found out that our son, who had struggled to re adjust to American life with the family after living in Amsterdam, was diving deeper into the drug world and was dealing.  When we pursued him and set boundaries, thinking we were going to get on top of this, he decided to leave our home, live out of his car and be homeless.  Oh he left us a note…..The first pages were a full confession of everything he had done, breaking our hearts. He wrote a note to each person in our family, and what he had learned from us, and what he loved about us.  I wept as I read. Then he wrote, don’t worry mom and dad, when I am done with this adventure I will join the coast guard,  settle down, buy a house, marry a beautiful woman and have 4 kids. 2 girls, 2 boys in that order ☺  HE also said he would finish school (while homeless). But he said don’t try to find me!    Well he worked up the street at the 99 cent store and went to school around the corner!  But aside from the hysterically funny moments, I was crushed. When you bring a newborn home, and observe his first moments of breath and cradle him, and kiss his cheeks, you never hope that he will live on the streets, using, dealing and living a less than life.

So many things at that time of our lives were hitting us….you know when it all hits the fan at once?  And, having just seen how my beautiful cousin’s life ended, I was devastated, knowing there was no guarantee on my son’s life…. I ugly cried for weeks. Everywhere where I went I had myself on my hands. I was sick of listening to myself. I was heavy. My pain was consuming me.  I couldn’t see anyone else. I felt like I couldn’t’ breath, like I was gasping for air. The wind had been knocked out of me.

This is not a new story. This is humanity’s story for all of its existence, except its newborn moments.

And, God has been sending us love notes inviting us to set ourselves down and breath deeply of his spirit.
You see back in the garden God formed us…his beloved, out of red clay. Then he cupped our face in his hands and with the kiss of God, he put his mouth over ours and breathed his spirit, Ruach (breath, wind, spirit) life into us and we began to live.

Then you know how it goes. Instead of trusting that relationship with God was enough and the tree of life was fulfilling, and breathing deep breathes of fresh pure crisp God air, and using our hands to tend to all that was sacred, ……Eve began a conversation with a snake and we took that apple into our own hands and we ate….

And, instead of the breath of God filling our lungs, we had the wind knocked out of us UGHHHHHHH and we have been gasping for air, looking for life, holding onto ourselves, and living small, ever since. No wonder we now have a society plagued with shame, anxiety, fear, depression…. And all of humanity is wheezing.

But God in his incredible passion for humanity was not satisfied to leave us to ourselves. 

After Jesus was crucified, the disciples, who had a few years of hope, thinking that  maybe Jesus was the one, felt dropped. Felt like the wind had been knocked out of them. So they scooped themselves up, and went back to what was familiar.

The Sunday after the cross, they were gathered in a room with the door locked. Hiding out, full of fear, likely barely breathing, when Jesus appeared in the middle of the room.  HE said, “be at peace”.   (side note, If you had killed or betrayed me ,  that would not be the first thing I would say to you. I would come to settle the score, or at least  say “help me understand” or have a few plans laid out to minimize the risk of anything like that ever happening again). But, thankfully, Jesus is offering something counter intuitive to us.  And, after he says Peace, he did it again! He drew near to his disciples.   He came close, and He breathed on them….(inhale).  The wind that had been knocked out of them, was now breathing life, Ruach deep into their souls. And their lives and this world has never been the same.

You see, when you believe the insidious lie that God isn’t enough, that you don’t have what it takes to face what lies ahead, that you are your history, and being dropped hurt, so you are going to be sure to pick yourself up, and hold onto your self and focus on yourself so that you really aren’t good for anyone else and you are breathlessly self protecting and gasping for air, you are not breathing life into anyone else….. I know what that is like.

Back to my son, I was so sick of having myself on my hands, that one day I felt like God said, get on the floor (that is not like me).  I laid on the ground. Then he said get up…..He clearly said “You have 4 other children, a husband who loves you, a community of people looking at how you will navigate this season of your life, …and a son ….who needs to see you living for something bigger than him. 

I was jarred… I had forgotten who held Me!  I had forgotten who was desperately trying to breath life into me.  I had forgotten who held my son!! I started breathing deep again, and set myself down and joy emerged.  It was a long road with my son that is unfolding beautifully. He did settle down. He hasn’t bought a house. He hasn’t married a beautiful woman. Nor does he have 4 kids, 2 girls, 2 boys, in that order. But he did finish high school (high and walked across the stage on his hands), but is now sober for a couple of years, working, and on a church staff leading their youth, surprising me continually with his maturing character.

But I had to set myself down, and allow the breath of God to fill my deflated lungs, trusting that God was enough long before I knew the outcome.

You see the only way to not scoop yourself up when you’ve been dropped …the only way to breath deep breaths of crisp air, when the wind has been knocked hard out of you, is to know that God’s got you in HIS hands.  And, to let HIM breath His life into yours. His love will overwhelm you. His love will invade you. His love will surprise you and will call you beyond yourself.  You will walk into a room with your hands wide open and free, and your lungs full, and just watch what God will do.

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