“Lean on me.” God makes this invitation to you and me in every moment of our lives. We can choose to respond, “Please, God, rescue me! Come quickly, Lord, and help me.” But as for me, my focus often remains stuck on myself. I become caught up either in all that I accomplish or in all that I have left undone. I believe circumstances are either the result of my own abilities or the fault of my own limitations. When life is all about me, I am blinded from the reality of my complete dependence upon my Creator. The noise of arrogance and anxiety deafens the call to lean on the everlasting arms.
We are designed by God to be dependent. It is a twofold dependence – first, directly upon God, and second, indirectly upon God through those people God brings into our lives. Our existence is to be one of interconnection, not isolation.
As Jesus lived his life on earth as both God and human being, he lived the ultimate life of continual dependence upon his Father; yet he also depended upon the provision from his Father through other human beings. God provided for Jesus’ human life through Mary. Mary first carried Jesus inside her body and then in her arms. The nourishment Mary took in was the first nourishment he received. She prepared his daily bread and mothered him with all her heart – satisfying one of the deepest needs of the human soul.
In adulthood, Jesus depended upon a large community to accomplish the work he was called to do. A young boy provided the five loaves and two fish that would feed five thousand. Jesus asked a woman for water at a well – and depended upon her word to evangelize her entire Samaritan town, leading many to believe in him. Overwhelmed with sorrow in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus sought solace in the company of Peter, James, and John, even as they fell asleep just when the Lord needed them most. When Jesus died on the cross, Mary was there with the other women and John, perhaps ready to hold his body one final time. Jesus called upon his disciple to do one more thing for him – take care of his mother (John 19:26-27). Even his tomb was a gift from one of his followers (Matthew 27:59-60).
Yet Jesus did not stay in this tomb beyond three days. For the One he depended on before all others raised him from death to life.
There is freedom in dependence. It enables each of us to accept our vulnerability. We no longer have to hide in shame or self-sufficiency. You and I can choose to lean on our Father amid a full range of disastrous and delightful events, praying, “Please, God, rescue me! Come quickly, Lord, and help me” (Psalm 70:1).
We lean in dependence on the Lord, we depend on those closest to us, and we lean also upon the saints who have gone before us in the faith. Sixteen hundred years ago, a European Christian leader named John Cassian published an account of his conversations with monks living in a Middle Eastern desert. One older monk, Isaac, had shared this prayer from Psalm 70 with the young John on his visit to their monastery. John’s book – and Isaac’s prayer – had such an influence that even today many Christians around the globe begin times of prayer with the Scripture verse Isaac commended to John Cassian. And on days when I am still enough to hear the call, Lean on me, I, too, join in this prayer practice, thanks in part to John Cassian, Isaac, and his fellow monks.