“Mrs. Vogelsang, Addison is making trouble in his row. He won’t leave people alone.”
I caught Addison’s eye, easy enough since he was turning around and not paying attention to the chapel service. His Asperger’s Syndrome created daily challenges for me to keep order and yet give him the necessary leeway to have a positive learning experience. Motioning for him to come sit by me, the usual penalty for misbehaving students in church, I watched as he stumbled over everyone’s feet to get to my place.
Plop! Down he sat… as close as he could… leaning into me with his whole body and then Plop! Down came his head on my shoulder. I could only imagine the sweet smile on his face as he relished his “punishment.”
Physically leaning on someone or something can be a necessity, especially when we have a weakness or are feeling faint. I was grateful for the handrail of the steps to the second floor of our hometown department store. I’d just left the hospital the day before after a serious operation, and being young and foolish, I was determined to buy a certain special gift that afternoon. My head down, struggling to make each step, I heard a derisive comment, “Oh, it can’t be all that bad!” Her chiding turned to embarrassment and compassion as I explained the cause of my physical limitations.
There are other leanings… We lean into the wind. I lean forward when I don’t want to miss one bit of an exciting story. After a long day, it’s nice to lean back and relax in a comfortable chair.
I remember when my sister and I leaned over the bannister, hoping to catch our oldest sister and her boyfriend kissing goodnight.
Women these days are encouraged to “lean in” and be assertive in order to be given our proper place in the decision making process.
Probably the most famous leaning is the Tower of Pisa. Its problems began right from the start with a faulty foundation on one side. The poor thing was doomed to topple over until it was partially righted and stabilized years later.
The spires on the Taj Mahal look straight enough, but they are really leaning slightly outward. The architect didn’t want them to fall onto the tomb if they should collapse. A history teacher once suggested to my class that if they were perfectly straight, the optical illusion would make them look like they were actually leaning inward.
Sometimes we find ourselves wrestling with a difficult decision. Depending on our mood or the latest information or the suggestions from friends and colleagues, we lean towards one choice and then back the other way. We may even feel we’ve come to a definite decision, but then we sway in the other direction at the last minute. Some people seem to live their whole lives this way, to the annoyance of their family and friends.
There is a time for leaning when we’re emotionally or spiritually feeling week. I remember a sweet gal at church sitting by herself the Sunday after her husband died. I simply joined her and took her hand without a word. I’ll never forget her slight body gradually leaning into me, and then her head falling gently to my shoulder.
The ultimate support we depend on, rely on for inspiration and comfort and strength, needs to be something that gives us a firm foundation right from the start. The one that makes us confident in our choices… our decisions. The one that doesn’t have the illusion of being solid and straight, but actually is… right to the core.
David spoke of this in his Psalm: ”Upon thee I have leaned from my birth” (71:6 RSV). I can only hope to measure up to that claim. Like David I know I’ve sought other sources to lean on, including myself. And I don’t always heed the sound advice from David’s son in Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (NIV).
One of my favorite hymns is all about leaning. Leaning on my Savior. It speaks of joy, peace, nothing to fear or dread when my Lord is so near. When I can feel myself with my whole body, soul and spirit leaning into Him… sometimes plopping right down next to him with the joy of His forgiveness when I know I’ve done wrong… sometimes gently resting my head on His shoulder for His strength.
And singing that sweet refrain, sometimes with a hope and a wish to be closer in fellowship with Him, and other times confident in my promise of a definitive decision:
Lord I'm leaning, leaning
Safe and secure from all alarms
Leaning on the everlasting arms
Leaving my guilt at the cross,