On Being Tied to Others


Recently, I had an experience that was pretty visceral. I was feeling pretty beat up and insecure, and I put out an SOS call to my spiritual director, Elaine. Thankfully, she had some time to connect with me by phone that day, and after pouring out my woes, I landed on an image to describe the way I felt. 

In the image, I was three years old with a ponytail on the top of my head, and people were grabbing me by that ponytail and banging me around at whim. 

Ouch. Pretty visceral, right? 

What absolutely broke my heart was seeing my own response inside that image. I was flinging my arms out wide in a desperate attempt to grab the leg of the one(s) flinging me around, trying valiantly to grab hold and hang on tight, as if to say, “Love me! Care for me! Approve of me! Want me!”

Ouch again. This is me in one of my most vulnerable places. I struggle with things like this.

Thank goodness for Elaine. She asked if Jesus was there, and he was.

I wouldn’t have seen Jesus if she hadn’t asked me to notice him. 

But when she asked me to notice Jesus, there he was, sitting on a set of steps in front of a brownstone walk-up residence off to the side. All that flinging and flailing was happening in the middle of a neighborhood street, and Jesus sat quietly on the brownstone steps, facing the street, watching the scene unfold before him.

I found it interesting he didn’t try to rescue me. He didn’t get off the steps and interfere in the incident. Instead, he looked at me with calmness and knowledge in his demeanor and his eyes and simply communicated, “You don’t have to take that.”

It was like I had a choice. Really? 

So I gave it a shot. I disentangled myself from the abusive swinging and banging around, and I went to sit by Jesus on the steps. And as soon as I sat down, it was like I came back into possession of my whole self. I was 32 years old, inhabiting the fullness of my story, my life, and my body. 

I was whole and pulsing with aliveness. Jesus and I sat shoulder to shoulder, looking out on the neighborhood street before us, and talked like two adults who know, love, and respect each other. 

Do you struggle with something similar — being tied to the whims of others, enslaved to their approval or treatment? What might it be like to receive the full acceptance and respect of the companionship of Jesus instead?