It is not enough to feel the gusts rocking my car while I storm-watch on a west coast beach. I slam the car door before the wind yanks it out of my hand, then step in to the exhilaration of howling air and roaring water. The world is tumultuous with sound and energy, nothing static. Wind tears excited laughter from my mouth, tossing it to gulls balancing on invisible air waves who echo it back to me in their voice-like cries. The ocean sends surges from far out crashing to the shore, spume flying, froth foaming, sucking rocks and debris back with each retreat. I glory in sea spray stinging my cheeks, the press and billow of my rain jacket molded by fickle wind fingers. After scrambling over slippery logs my feet find firm, wet sand and I run into the wind. A wall unseen forces my straining legs to slow motion, my eyes to blur with wind-whipped tears.
Then I turn around. Instantly that which held me back is holding me up. My eyes clear, my muscles relax and I lean back into the wind. The force of the invisible exerts its power so I barely need to exert mine. How strange to lean back against something unseen, to feel the grip of moving air supporting me. It not only holds me up, it pushes me, propelling me along the sand in a direction of its own choosing.
Leaning seems like a passive stance, even apathetic. The distinction is in what or who is being leaned upon. During Jesus’ last supper with His disciples in John 13, a snapshot moment gives a glimpse of a special relationship. Jesus has just predicted His betrayal at the hands of one of His own disciples. Although confused by this, the “disciple whom Jesus loved” sees his Lord visibly troubled in spirit. From his position reclining next to Jesus at the table, he then leans back against Him (vs. 25). The King James version says he was “leaning on Jesus’ bosom.” I love this picture. In the midst of perplexing, stressful times, this disciple leans against the One who loves him, instinctively giving Jesus support while seeking it himself. This is a moment of intimacy, of dependence and connection. Perhaps this gesture of closeness helped give Jesus the courage to say what He needed to say next, naming Judas as His betrayer.
I am a “leaner” most of the time, except when I rely too much on my own resources. But there is enough history behind me of having no choice but to lean on Jesus, resting on His bosom, that I know it is where I need to be when life tries to push me over. He is the wind I lean into; a mighty, unseen force girding me up when my heart and spirit are on the verge of collapse.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding,” Proverbs 3:5 truly speaks. My own understanding is finite, flawed and overly influenced by my emotions. When I lean with my back against the Cross of Christ, there l find strength, there I am sustained, there I discover that “underneath are the everlasting arms” of my Creator and Savior. Let the storms of this world bluster and blow. I will lean into the wind of His Spirit and be upheld.