Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pull Yourself Up By Your Boot Straps?

“Pull yourself up by your boot straps” -- I do not like that saying. People try to use it as encouragement, I suppose. If you are down in the dumps, they may say “Come on! Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” I can see what they may be saying, “persevere!”  but, something about it – Errrrr – it gets under my skin.
I checked out the origin of this phrase, and it is not evident where it came from or who said it first. Obviously it gives the imagery of boots and their straps (actually, laces) and the ability for one to lift oneself off the ground by pulling up on the bootstraps.  Needless to say – it’s not possible. If you doubt me – try it. You may get one foot off the ground, but not both.  Only reason you get one off – is, well, because you’re leaning on the other. The phrase is supposed to show that it is not possible to get out of a difficult circumstance by our own attempts.
Take the issue of disappointment, for instance (we've had a minor outbreak of it at our home, lately). I don’t get why some things work out and others don’t. Sometimes it is a mystery, but it is part of reality.  No denying it – we are all affected by it at one time or another.  We have dreams, goals, desires that just do not turn out the way we hoped and we end up disappointed. I cringe at the feeling that disappointment brings. It is like a thick ooze that settles on us, heavy on our shoulders, seeping in to our hearts.   
 Now, if we adopt a “I’m just going to pull myself up by my boot straps” mentality and keep on going, we really are not going anywhere at all.  What we do end up with is an attempt at denying our reality, thereby secluding ourselves from living a full and open life with ourselves, with others and with God. In addition, we deny God the opportunity to work something good out of the situation.
But if we acknowledge the disappointment and ask God to help us deal with it, then we can get somewhere.  In embracing the situation from God’s hand, and allowing the disappointment to work its way through my heart, in His timing, God will use it to make us stronger and more like His Son, even when we do not understand it (Proverbs 3:5). That's movement I'm interested in.
The problem is that sometimes just getting up and moving on is easier – or so we think. We really don't move on, other than maybe hopping, if we are super coordinated, but I don’t know about you, I’m not interested in hopping through life.  Dealing with the disappointment is hard work. Dealing with sorrow, and pain, loneliness and fear is tough, too. Living out of our hearts with open honesty, to ourselves and to others, requires a risk.  It’s hard.  It requires trust – trusting God.
Instead of reaching down and pulling up my boot straps, I’m going to lean on God, trust Him to work the disappointment (and other things that challenge my heart) for my good and His glory. The truth is, we really can’t lift ourselves up when we are down, not even partially, only God can.
·         What do you think?
·         Do you struggle with trying to do it on your own and not trusting the Lord?


Juanita said...

Amen Sister...I hate the phrase too. Probably because some think that is what is required of a depressed person. I too, would rather run to God and hide under the shadow of His wings...and allow Him to lift me up as He alone knows best.

Andrea Van Ye said...

Thanks, Juanita. I appreciate your input and your comraderie!

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