Trusting in God involves letting go

Published April 1, 2000

I was sitting with a young friend in a street cafe at a main intersection in Havana. I have been to Havana many times, but it never loses its charm, and there are always different observations to make of its changing life.

[ Michael Peers ]

So it was partly the excitement of the place that had me on the edge of my chair, but there was more to it than that. Picking up a conversation after a year always involves questions and even anxieties.

My friend picked up on the anxiety and said, ?Sit back in your chair, Father?.

And he?s not the only one in the last while to challenge me in similar ways. I have spent time in the last months in a hospital chiropody clinic as we try to find ways to make walking on my arthritic feet less painful.

The effect of the pain contorts other parts of my body and causes them to stiffen, worsening the whole situation. And it takes conscious, deliberate effort to loosen the muscles. I have an exercise regimen, a new experience for me. But more importantly, with every change in position I have to consider how my back and legs could be more relaxed.

And where is God in all this?

On one hand, the Psalmist says

(Ps. 147.10) ? ? neither delighteth (God) in any man?s legs,? so it might sound as if these considerations are not of any consequence with God. But the psalm continues ?the Lord?s delight is in those who fear him and put their trust in his mercy.?
So my friend?s challenge about sitting back in the chair touches the question of physical tension as a sign of anxiety as opposed to relaxing that tension as a sign of giving the occasion to God in trust.

The Christian tradition has always had traditions about posture for public prayer predicated on the connection between our use of our body and our attitude to God. Raised in the classical tradition of sitting for instruction, standing for praise, kneeling for confession, I have absorbed those concepts long since.

But the relationship is far deeper than that.

For me at least, situations of spiritual or personal tension quickly and unconsciously translate themselves into physical tension. The antidote is not simply a matter of concentrating on my body and forcing it to relax, but of first committing the moment and the persons to God, and then letting the body compose itself accordingly.

The funeral offices in the Book of Common Prayer and the Book of Alternative Services use a sentence I love that expresses this trust in God?s mercy, ?The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.?

Two ideas intrigue me.

First, the context of that statement (Deuteronomy 33.27) is violence, war and the threatened survival of the people. This affirmation is made in the face of trials vastly greater than anything I have ever met.

Second the imagery of the merciful God is a physical one, arms of unfailing capacity to hold and protect.

So a voice that says ?Sit back in your chair, Father? is issuing me advice for my health coinciding exactly with the voice of the chiropodist, but, much more importantly, is pressing me towards God?s desire that I should trust God first and then let go. Archbishop Michael Peers is Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.


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