Imaging two life rafts bobbing around on a stormy ocean. Both rafts were deployed from, ‘The Ship of Health and Wellbeing.’ Which sadly hadn’t stayed afloat for long! The wind is blowing the white caps into foam over the waves and the environment is frightening to say the least. However, to top it all off, both rafts are taking on water, they are being swamped by the surging waves and the little rubber tubes that support them are beginning to deflate.
In ‘The Raft or Shame and Refusal,’ the courageous passengers are bailing as if their lives depended upon it. Their boat is a frantically scene of water and arms and effort. Whist their tide appears to be against them, they are at least a little higher in the water than, “The Raft of Acceptance and Resignation.”
Their little raft is swamped to the rim and passengers on board are lying back, faces skyward hoping for rescue. Passengers in, “The Raft of Shame and Refusal,” are, in-between frantic strokes, disgusted by the other rafts lack of application amazed that they could be so passive.
The two rafts gradually drift apart and whilst neither actually sink, the second appears to be considerably worse off. Just as darkness falls a large ‘Sea King-of King’s.’ helicopter approaches on the horizon. Passengers on “The Raft of Acceptance and Resignation,” are still looking skywards and wave frantically when the chopper is in sight. They apply themselves diligently to the task of securing the line and donning the harness. One by one they are lifted to safety and although they will need to work hard in rehabilitation, the first step of the healing process is under way.
The helicopter hovers over, “The Raft of Shame and Refusal.” No single passenger waves. Each remains face down frantically pawing and the encroaching waterline. They are neither better nor worse off than before. The Winch-Man shouts but is not heard over the wind and the waves. Needing to get its passengers to shore the helicopter heads for home, intending to make another rescue when the passengers on, “The Raft of Shame and Refusal,” have finally worn themselves out.
Emotional distress can be greatly compounded by our determination to work it out ourselves. The shame of expressing ‘weakness’ or even fearing religious condemnation can motivate a huge amount of energetic escapism. Our refusal to accept that we may not be coping with our feelings, or circumstances, often just exacerbates those feelings and leads to greater distress.
In my experience of working with Christians in emotional distress, the frantic bailing often takes the form of incessant praying or studying scripture. In fact I believe that this is precisely the time when we need to, “Be still and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10).
To many of us at first glance it is the guys in, “The Raft of Acceptance and Resignation.” Who have got it all wrong. They appear passive to their circumstance, maybe even lazy. But are they? The reality is that they will still have to employ a lot of effort and energy in recovery, but could it be that that will be productive rather than futile? By accepting their inability to cope or to resolve the issues themselves they are in fact trusting God in a new way, a way which leaves them with two hands free to grasp the route to recovery that is offered.
Could today be the day to put down the bailer, accept your circumstances as they really are and ask for help?
Will Van Der Hart, 01/09/2009