Sometimes without prompting and for no clear reason, my phone pops up a random video. It happened again last night. It was an excerpt from the 30th anniversary reunion of The Jackson 5. I was suddenly taken back to elementary school, running across the playground with the song ABC looping in my head. But the image remained just for a second before more images ran in fast forward to one captured on tape 30 years later, the effects of those years culminating in a visual of M. J. bent over from the waist as if overcome by some heavy burden as the group sang I’ll Be There, at the end dropping to his knees and covering his face as he appeared to wipe tears from his eyes. And then, at the end of the song, standing up to embrace and hold Jermaine for a much longer time than might have been staged. He was leaning into his brother.
Another video popped up. It was Bill Withers getting ready to perform on Soul Train. He was talking. He was talking a lot: unscripted and heartfelt. Introducing the song, he waved the group to come in closer and began by saying that he spends more time writing songs than anything else. “And mostly when you write songs you write about ladies. And there’s one kind of love that’s more consistent than that kind. People will say ‘Until death do us part’ to four or five people in their lives before any of them dies. And I wanted to say something that’s just very general. There’s one kind of love that’s much more consistent regardless if whether you’re a man or a woman…that just says, ‘If you need me, I’ll be around or somewhere and I might be able to just help you out a little bit.’”
I joined him as he began to sing Lean on Me, remembering all the words, the tempo, the inflections, and the feelings I experienced back in 1974. I loved that song back then, and I do now. It still fits my vocal register like a glove. But that’s not the only reason.
This morning I began my time in the “quiet” of the noisy backyard (all the streets are being re-paved today and I watched from my patio perch as something like eight large trucks loaded with black tar-covered barrels were staged on the side street behind the house in anticipation of the 8 am start time. There was a lot of beeping going on).
The first line of the first devotional was this:
Who is this coming up from the desert leaning on her lover? (Song of Songs 8:5)
I hadn’t put it together until I read that line. I thought ‘I have been feeling out of sorts for the past few days…anxious and unfocused. I don’t like feeling that way…I’ve been fighting it but I don’t have the strength I once had.’
I knew the Spirit was inviting me to lean on Him. This isn’t an easy thing. It’s engrained in my body to be independent and not need anyone’s help. Maybe it’s a matter of pride, but I think not. I think it’s a matter of having gotten into the habit early on and never believing that it’s okay to ask for help. Okay, I take it back. It is a matter of pride. In fact, when someone offers help, I perceive it as a vote of no confidence in my abilities. I don’t even think about it; it’s an auto-reaction in my body.
My fierce spirit of independence has been a point of contention between my oldest daughter and me. She seems to need a lot of help with everything. Honestly, it grates on me. No, I don’t resent her for needing help. That’s not it. It’s that I’m terrible at helping someone who needs the help, wants the help, but makes the experience of helping one of great pain and exasperation. I don’t have enough patience to deal with her outbursts of frustration without losing my temper and making things worse. So I don’t help. My husband does the helping.
Who would have guessed that leaning on Him would take me out of my comfort zone? He is beckoning me. Further into the devotional, I read…
Child of My love, lean hard,
And let Me feel the pressure of your care;…
You love Me, I know. So then do not doubt;
But loving Me, lean hard.
At that point I’m thinking… I get it. I have some work to do, and it’s not going to be easy, right? But I’ll suck it up; pull myself up by my bootstraps, and lean.
But He wasn’t finished talking.
1“Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are named Israel
And who came forth from the loins of Judah,
Who swear by the name of the LORD
And invoke the God of Israel,
But not in truth nor in righteousness.
2“For they call themselves after the holy city
And lean on the God of Israel;
The LORD of hosts is His name.
I recognize that this chapter in Isaiah has little to do with my immediate issue, but the phrase And lean on the God of Israel seemed like another direct message underscoring His repeated point. It was the final blow, my shield of self-sufficiency pummeled by the repetitive swings of His velvet hammer. Something shifted and I thought it might be okay to let go. I leaned in harder.
I want to point out a few things. First, He talks to us. I’m pretty sure He talks to us all the time. My theory is this: if we were to pay perfect attention to Him all the time, never missing a syllable of His breath, we would have perfect guidance and simply do the next thing He tells us to do, adequately equipped for the work, and performing His will within the context of who He’s made us to be. Including helping our teenage daughters with their chemistry homework without losing our patience.
Second, regardless of whether we’re paying attention, He will do, when necessary, specific things to get our attention, including the spontaneous launch of cell phone music videos.
Third, I don’t take this lightly. This is not a cute little post about a hit song from 1974. This is about recognizing the obstacles we carry within us that keep us from leaning on Him. It always sounds like a nice idea, doesn’t it? I abide in Him, and He abides in me. But what does that really mean at 7:30 in the morning when I’m trying to put my youngest daughter’s braces on her legs and she’s fighting me for a few more minutes of sleep? That’s when my stuff surfaces. And that’s when I need to replay the song.
“Lean on Me, when you’re not strong, and I’ll be your Friend, I’ll help you carry on.”
 Reimann, Jim; Cowman, L. B. E. (2008-09-09). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (p. 346). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
 Reimann, Jim; Cowman, L. B. E. (2008-09-09). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (p. 347). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
 The Lockman Foundation (2008-01-26). Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible (NASB) (Kindle Locations 24914-24919). The Lockman Foundation. Kindle Edition.
 Written by Bill Withers • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group