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I heaved open the double doors to the aging gymnasium, grateful for a heated shelter from the snowy Saturday afternoon – and even more grateful for two hours of free roller-skating at the local gym to get the cabin-fever-winter-jiggles out of my three kids.
We had been to the free skating twice before, so they knew the drill. Coats off, hats off, shoes off, skates on. I hunched over to help them click the straps of their skates firmly in place, and they were off.
As ‘off’ as one can be, with two left feet and four wheels on each.
I smiled as they wobbled and lunged and arched and leaned and flailed their way around the perimeter of the room. The space was small, and the wooden floor crowded, but the kids didn’t care. They were skating, and they were having fun.
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On previous occasions, I had skated with them, and inevitably, one (or more) of them would end up holding my hand (translation: pulling my arm out of my socket) as we glided along (translation: desperately tried not to fall).
On this particular Saturday, however, I opted to sit on the sidelines.
Without my masterful skill and expertise to rely on, they were left to their own devices.
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Yep, you guessed it. In no time, all three of them had joined hands.
Recipe for disaster.
I cringed in helpless dismay as I watched the precarious six-armed chain contort into all imaginable shapes and angles. I may have squeezed my eyes shut once or twice.
I definitely stopped counting the number of times they landed in a mangled heap, dropping like dominoes, one by one. Too many times, the mound teetered on catastrophic proportions as innocent passersby joined their shenanigans by adding limbs and torsos to the pile.
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In those two hours of sideline agony, the obvious became clear:
We ought not lean on those who are bound to fall.
This truth leads to its logical conclusion: In life, all of mankind is fallible. No matter how hard we try, not a single one of us is perfect, nor will we ever be, in this life.
Therefore, there is only one option: We have no choice but to lean wholly on the One who will never fall, never fail, never forsake.
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A few days after the skating catastrophe, I was going to visit my sister in the hospital. As I approached the building in the bitter cold, an elderly couple was heading toward their car. The gentleman relied heavily on a cane, while the silver-haired wife clasped his forearm and shuffled along beside his equally unsteady steps.
If I had been closer to them in proximity, I would’ve rushed forward to stable them both, one with each of my arms. Instead I held my breath, cringed inwardly and prayed that they would make it to the parking lot without a tumble.
Though they had no other physical choice at the time, they were each relying on someone who was bound to take a spill, and drag the other down as well – just like my precarious roller-skating charges.
How often do we do that in life?
We fumble our way around, finally realize that we need help, reach out an open, desperate palm, and clasp our fingers around the nearest hand willing to help us up. We’re so grateful for the boost that we fail to see through our rose-colored glasses that the hand holding ours is just as desperate and in need as we are.
We put our trust in riches, in material goods, in the security of our jobs, in our health, in the affirmation of others.
As the Psalmist writes, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Psalms 20:7).
We know we ought to trust in the name of the Lord our God, but too often we rely on our own strength, our own cleverness, our own pride, our own ability to make money, our own doctors and hospitals, all the while forgetting to humble ourselves before the Lord so that He can lift us up (James 4:10).
We lean on our wooden crutches, or even on the arm of our frail and ailing spouses, thinking we will make it to the parking lot of heaven unscathed.
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)
Bill Withers’ song, ‘Lean on Me’ is a tune that demands a sway and a tap of the foot. The overall message is good, even for Christians: We should be there for one another, willing to bear each other’s burdens, eager to encourage and lift each other up. But even Mr. Withers was aware that the person being leaned on would eventually need a little help of his own down the road.
“Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
Till I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on”
How often do we lean on a willing shoulder, then feel disappointed, betrayed or hurt when they pull their crutch from under our armpit, they themselves suddenly needing someone to lean on?
What saddens me even more is when unbelieving people choose to reject the Christian faith solely because of the hypocrisy of its followers. They see our sin and not our sinless Savior and His blood that covers us, and they throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Thankfully, in the Lord’s grace, the Christian faith does not stand or fall on the unstable legs of a five-year-old wearing shoes with wheels. Its credibility is not dependent on the balancing capabilities of a wobbly sinner.
Ultimately, the truth of the gospel does not stand or fall on the basis of its fallible disciples, but on the claims and actions of Christ himself.
And He is the only source that can hold us up without fail – He alone is our firm foundation.
We can spare ourselves disappointment and heartache by relying not on our brothers and sisters, but primarily, wholly, completely on Christ our solid rock. Hymn writer Edward Mote had it right when he wrote, “On Christ the solid Rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.”
Stand on the solid rock today, and everyday. Lean on Him, and He will hold you up.
Kate Motaung is the wife of a South African pastor and homeschooling mom of three. She has contributed to Ungrind, Radiant Magazine, (in)Courage, StartMarriageRight.com, Thriving Family, MOPS and Young Disciple magazine. You can read more from Kate at her blog, Heading Home or on Twitter @k8motaung.