In a world full of inevitable and perpetual change I have noticed in myself an ongoing desire for relief, a longing for a giant God-shaped Alka-Seltzer to drop into the aching upset of life. Plop. Plop. Fizz. Fizz. Relief. Now. Relief from sorrow, fear, guilt, or anger. Relief from a 9-year-old’s 24-hour monologue. Relief from clutter, vulnerability, and stinky diapers. Relief from confrontation and decisions about the future. Relief from making dinner, the heat, and financial strain. Big, small—I want relief from it all. However, it doesn’t seem like God and I are on the same page with this. It seems like I didn’t get the Alka-Seltzer God. That’s a bummer. Frustrating almost. As a matter of fact, I feel let down, angry even!
Something dawned on me one particularly disgruntled and disappointed night. It was not my finest moment. There was no reverence and praise in my heart. I was more of a petulant, whining, weasel-y child. Then I saw it. God is my PRT, not my Alka-Seltzer. What is PRT, you ask? It is Primary Restraint Technique. And, why do I know this? Well, there was this one time—when I was young, naïve, and childless—that I thought it would be cool to work in a residential program for 6- to 12-year-old foster kids who had behavioral and psychological issues. I had no idea. It was nothing like I expected, but I learned much while I worked there, including the nifty skill of how to restrain kids when they went physically out of control. The goal was to keep them safe and others safe around them—but mostly to protect them from themselves. According to my old training material, PRT is “an orthopedically sound physical hold that offers unprecedented mechanical advantage without inflicting pain or injury.” Apparently, “There is not a more mechanically effective standing hold anywhere within the realm of passive and benign restraint.”
So when big or small things in life build up for me, and I start lashing out, having a metaphorical (and, secretly, sometimes literal) hissy fit, demanding relief from all unpleasant things—God crosses my arms over my chest, reaches his arms around me, and gently holds on. No amount of angry words, pleading, threatening, deal making, bites (metaphorical again…stick with me), scratches, or head slams can move him. When I have exhausted myself to the point of momentary stillness, I finally hear the quiet words he has been speaking all along. “You will be OK. You are not alone. I can take the worst you have to deal out. I am not going to leave you. I am your safe place.” My anger, indignation, disappointment, and need for control melt into tears of relief. Relief! He doesn’t tell me that everything is fixed or that it will be easy from here on out. He doesn’t take the hard things I have to deal with away. Instead, what he offers me (and to all of his broken foster children) is a relief not dependent on all being right and easy in our worlds. It’s a relief that is unfazed by life’s turmoil and change. He allows me to struggle, trudge, and often flail through my tough situations, knowing better than I that a passive restraint gives me the ability to grow in understanding and character while never being abandoned. That is something my soul can sink into.
I will pitch another fit sooner or later, but in this moment of calm I say: Thank goodness for a patient PRT God who is bigger than my insistent tantrums for immediate relief.