I Chose a Phrase Instead: “Jesus, take my head.”
“Let me have your head,” the massage therapist told me.
She was working on my neck and shoulder muscles and needed me to give her the full weight of my head while I simply relaxed. It was my first massage in more than a decade, and I truly wanted to oblige her request. I mean, I tried, really tried to concentrate on relaxing my neck.
But I couldn’t seem to do it.
The therapist tried a different tactic, an attempt to trick me into relaxing my neck and giving her the full weight of my head. Again, to no avail.
I simply couldn’t give her control of my head. Thus, she couldn’t accomplish all she’d hoped to do in my massage therapy.
This incident — my inability to “give my head” to this therapist — is an example of my tendency to rely on my own strength or talents instead of trusting someone or something worthy of that trust. So rather than “choose a word” for the new year, I am using that image and choosing a phrase for 2020: “Jesus, take my head.”
Don’t worry, I’ll explain.
Why Choose One Word?
In the last weeks of 2019, I received an email from Deanne Michelle Welsh about “selecting a word” for 2020. The first time I encountered the idea of choosing to focus on one word for an entire year was inside a nonfiction book by novelist Debbie Macomber titled One Perfect Word.
In Debbie’s book, she shared personal stories of the positive life changes she experienced when she took the time to intentionally focus on a single word for an entire year. In her email, Deanne gave me a glimpse of the years she had focused on the words flourish and abundance.
“I eventually discovered that when I choose a word for the year, it really becomes part of a conversation I get to have with God,” wrote Deanne. “This will be the fourth year that I’m using this strategy. I actually found that picking a word for the year improved all areas of my life.”
She then spelled out the different ways the focus on one word benefits her writing.
“Your word can become a lens, a filter, and a way to check-in so you can stay focused and productive,” wrote Deanne, as she urged me to choose a word for this new year.
She had me at “it really becomes part of a conversation I get to have with God.”
Exercising ‘Take My Head’
In 2019, I learned about a new way of swimming called Total Immersion Swimming. At the time, I was suffering from a shoulder impingement irritated by my traditional swim strokes. TI Swimming focused on core strength rather than arm strength, gave me hope that I might once again swim long and fast.
Unfortunately, no TI coaches are in my locale, and I’ve had to learn this new way to swim by reading and watching video footage. While I haven’t perfected my TI stroke, I have adapted my stroke enough to return to swimming — without pain.
One of the keys to TI swimming is, in my interpretation, that you must “give the water your head.” When doing freestyle, you let your head hang between your extended arms and look directly below you. Your head is almost totally immersed in the water.
When doing the backstroke, you must press your head, neck, and back into the water and relax your neck and shoulders, or, again, “give the water your head.”
“Your head position controls your body balance,” says TI Swimming Coach Shinji Takeuchi, in his video titled Back Balance Head Position for Freestyle and Backstroke. He demonstrates how pressing your head into the water balances your body while lifting your head sends your feet downward.
If you’re following the principles of TI Swimming, you press your head into the water and find that the water supports your head — and you can relax. (Emphasis on the can.)
Sometimes when I’m swimming, I’ll notice that my neck feels tired, and I’ll realize, yet again, that I’m straining to hold my head instead of pressing into the water, trusting it to heft my noggin for me. While I can relax, I fail to let the water take my head.
It strikes me that my spiritual life has parallels to these issues.
Walk by Faith
Many years ago, I attended a Lifetime Guarantee workshop, read books such as Grace Walk, and listened to a number of cassette tapes of radio broadcasts in an effort (always my effort!) to learn how to walk fully in God’s grace.
“Grace is the opposite of karma, which is all about getting what you deserve,” wrote Justin Holcomb in his article “What Is Grace?” “Grace is getting what you don’t deserve, and not getting what you do deserve.”
His grace should ground and empower everything in the Christian life, but I don’t exemplify or experience that consistently. While I eagerly accept God’s grace for my life, I realize I often walk in my own strength and become legalistic or just plain forgetful.
Why do I become anxious or upset when things don’t go as I think they should? Why do I worry and fret? Why do I panic as if life as I know it is ending instead of taking my concerns to God? Why do I think God will punish me if I do something wrong?
“Walk in Grace is not just a tagline–it’s an invitation. To lay down the burdens that weigh you down and to receive grace you don’t deserve … then to stand and walk in obedience, repentance and celebration! Walking implies action! It is a response and a movement.” — Well-Watered Women
I’ve heard preachers say “I can’t do anything without the grace of God” in their effort to express both our need for God’s strength as well as the provision of God’s grace.
But my logic does battle with suggestions such as “I can’t even tie my shoes without God’s grace,” because, of course, I can, at a purely physical level. The same way that I can swim without allowing the water to take my head and get through a massage without giving my head to the therapist.
But I accomplish those things without all the benefits I might experience if I did walk fully aware of God’s presence and power in my life, or swim with ease, or allow a massage therapist to work magic with my muscles.
Toward 20/20 in 2020
I awakened with an eye infection when I was 18, and my mother sent me to the eye doctor, who gave me a full vision exam as well as examining my pink eyes. In addition to ointment to heal the infection, the doctor prescribed me glasses. Glasses? Prior to that moment, I was unaware that I didn’t have 20/20 vision; forever after, I have relied on glasses or contacts to see clearly.
“Imagine if you carried around a stapler in your hand,” the doctor told me that day. “It’s fairly light, no burden. But at the end of the day, your arm would feel tired.
“That’s what’s going on with your eyes. You have an infection because your eyes don’t see perfectly, and the work it takes for them to focus has made them susceptible to infection.”
I’m tired of walking in my own strength. Unlike my eyesight at 18, I’m aware that I don’t see God and the role his provision of grace should play in my life clearly. I too often focus on “the things that are seen” right in front of me instead of “the things that are unseen” (2 Corinthians 4:18).
I love Jesus. I’m aware that His name means “God with us” and that the presence of His Holy Spirit means God is in me, too. I want to live more cognizant of that reality and let go of the “stapler” I tend to carry so He might be able to work through me and bring glory to Himself.
In the videos demonstrating TI Swimming, one of the earliest drills shows a new swimmer on her back in the water and a coach holding her head, guiding her down the pool as she gently kicked and experienced her correct position and body balance. That is the picture in my head as I pray, “Jesus, take my head.”
I want 20/20 vision for things of God in 2020. I want Jesus to “take my head.” As I do with my swimming, I want to press my head (my heart, soul, mind, and strength) into Jesus, to trust Him fully. As I don’t manage to do during a massage, I want to give Jesus my head to stretch me, relax me, and help me more fully rest in what He has done.
“Jesus, take my head.”
What about you? Have you ever chosen one word as your focus for a year?
If you’re not a believer in Christ Jesus, my desire for 2020 might seem like jibberish. I’d like to explain. The very short story is that Jesus — fully God while fully human — came to Earth to love and live perfectly and then die for my sins and yours. His death paid our death penalty so we could have eternal life, but we must choose Jesus. If you aren’t a believer and want to choose a word for 2020, choose Jesus. May God richly bless you.