BY REV. WENDY G. VAN TASSELL - FIRST CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH OF SPENCER
Many years ago while in high school I attended the Illinois summer youth theater program offered at the University of Illinois in Champagne/Urbana. There I was introduced to a number of trust exercises meant to enhance my own ability to trust others and to be deepen my own understanding of how to be more trustworthy. We did a "trust fall," which requires a person to fall back into the arms of the person behind them. The one behind must be prepared to catch the one who is falling. The person in front does not look back, they just let themselves go. Obviously, that's not always an easy thing to do.
One afternoon we engaged in an exercise called "Blind Trust Walk," done without verbal communication. One individual is blindfolded and the other silently walks them about, helping them to stay safe and also experience the fullness of the world about them. Often this theater game is played indoors, but we spent time out and about the university campus, being guided across busy streets, feeling steamy concrete, smelling fragrant flowers, and eventually being led to an area where there were other "blind" people.
A third exercise requires a person to stand stiffly in the center of a circle of people. They are all seated on the ground with legs straight, all feet surrounding the legs of the person in the center. The challenge to the person in the center of the circle is to close their eyes, stay rigid but allow themselves to be "passed around the circle" as they lean ever so slightly toward one of the people on the outside of the circle. It's no small task. It requires great concentration and trust, especially on the part of those required to pass the person around.
We've just flipped into a new year and a new decade. Perhaps you are among those who are dedicated to eating healthier, exercising more, becoming leaner. That's good. We only get one body. We need to take care of it! To be lean is healthy.
To be willing to lean is also healthy. I want to suggest two ways to lean in this new year. Lean upon God. Trust God in the midst of whatever you are facing. Depend upon your Creator. Christ wants you to lean upon him. Scripture often points us toward the importance of leaning/trusting on God:
Proverbs 3:5 — "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding."
Deuteronomy 31:8 — "It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed."
Psalm 46:1, 10a — "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. ... Be still and know that I am God!"
Matthew 11:28 — "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest."
A second suggestion for leaning in this year is to "lean in" toward others. While societal discourse seems bent upon pulling us apart, we must recognize that we all need one another more than ever. Don't walk away from the other. Lean in and listen. Lean in and learn. Lean in and dare to be vulnerable. Lean in and hold up the other. Lean in and discover the strength that God provides for us in community. We will all be better for it.