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Squishies
October 6, 2023

“Squishies”

5 min read

They’ve ruined me, I tell you.

These popular style shoes which I purchased cheaply online are so comfortable that I don’t want to wear anything else. The way the rubber cradles my feet and supports my arches has this Caribbean-raised woman actually wearing footwear inside the house instead of going barefoot as I have for decades. (Not even the lectures I’ve gotten from podiatrists ever managed to sway me.) In my head they are my “squishy” shoes, and they’ve got me thinking. Not just about ordering 12 more of them (not gonna happen), but about the more serious subject of comfort in general, emotional comfort in specific.

I may have issues with my feet, but they pale in comparison with the tenderness of my heart. It has always seemed incredibly sensitive to suffering and unable to shake off distresses large and small that others brush away like lint. So steeped was I in my inner responses, growing up, that my family nicknamed me “The Philosopher.” I was always brooding about something or other that weighed me down. I was always feeling those burdens. When I cast my mind back to elementary school, there are few purely lighthearted memories that emerge. I was one serious little bugger back then. Still am, now.

What does it take to comfort the human soul? Genesis 2 offers a foundational answer to this question. After Adam names all the animals that share his world, the Lord God declares, “It is not good that the man should be alone.  I will make a helper fit for him.” (Gen 2:18). Commentators have emphasized the fact that the word for “helper” (EH-zer) is often used of God in the Bible (see Psalms 30:11; 33:20; 54:4), so this new companion for Adam was not to be a lesser creature, but a counterpart. What I am interested in is the word translated as “fit,” because I sense that is where the comfort for Adam’s implied loneliness comes from. Other English versions use the words “suitable” or “just right” to convey the meaning of cah-neg-DO, a compound word containing a Hebrew preposition meaning “as,” “like,” or “according.” We find the same root word in Psalm 23, when the poet declares that even should his enemies stare him straight in the face (NEH-ged) across the table, it is precisely there that God will provide sumptuously for him.

For me, then, comfort for the human soul begins with location: where I am in relation to that which supports me and that which is against me? How close do either of them feel? If the latter should close in while I fail to sense the former, fear and anguish will result. If I can sense God and others positioning themselves between me and my source(s) of trouble, then something in my soul releases, and I can take a breath. In essence, as my soul is backing away from some harm or recovering from an actual fall, it needs a “squishy” place to land that will envelope it and take the pressure off in all the right places.

And so, I wonder: are there ways that God makes Himself “squishy” for us, molding Himself to us whenever we are needy and hurting?

For the Christian, the most obvious and momentous answer is that of the Incarnation itself, God Almighty taking our form. John, arguably the most visionary of the apostles, states it beautifully in the opening of his gospel:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14 (emphasis mine)

Another way of stating the Greek phrase translated as “among us” would be “within us”—as in, within our own skin. Can’t get any closer than donning flesh, blood, and bones, which become the very things sacrificed for humanity’s sad estate to be reversed and our redemption achieved. The Son of God molds Himself so completely to us that He must be fatally ripped apart from His loved ones in order to reunite with them again—this time, under new terms, with sin no longer able to separate Savior from sufferer.

But what if this is not your narrative? Where else might you draw comfort from the truth of “God within”?

Earlier I talked about location being the starting point of my comfort—where both trouble and help are in relation to me. Returning to the story of Adam and Eve, we find that order, the sequence in which events unfold, speaks deeply to the possibility of consolation between Creator and creature. When God proclaims that “it is not good for man to be alone,” He has not yet fashioned the fauna of earth, sea, and sky. Having each of the zillions of animals parade before Adam to be named seems like a prelude of some sort, the music to which celebrants of a ceremony march in. Could it be that God is helping Adam conclude that, however marvelous each of these beings might be, they simply don’t do the trick (“But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him” [Gen. 2:20]). Adam must undergo that discouraging experience of profound aloneness to be ready for whatever comes next.

And that’s when the Creator gets down to work, meeting Adam’s poverty of heart with provision of soul. Putting the man to sleep, God reaches into his body for a rib from which to form Eve. Again, can’t get any closer than donning the same flesh, blood, and bones of those ordained to be your beloved. This is precisely the point that the man celebrates just as soon as he wakes up:

“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man.”

Gen 2:23 (emphasis mine)

So, a new question dawns from the idea of sequence being important to comfort: might our own experiences of deprivation and despair be seen as the prologue to a new beginning in our lives? As we go about our daily chores, trying to get a handle on the very real things that demand our attention, we may get weary, wonder where any of this leads, if it leads anywhere at all.

I guess I would say: keep walking, even if your feet hurt. Keep your eyes peeled for movement on the horizon that may be divine in origin (and human in packaging). Take any opportunity God gives you to rest, for who knows what He may pull from you to provide for you. For whichever narrative speaks to you most, the God featured in either doesn’t seem like Someone who would stretch out His hands frivolously or in futility. Nothing escapes Him and nothing prevents Him from doing what His Creative instincts dictate.

And I can say with all seriousness (if not some silliness) that God loves you in the squishiest way possible. Like moving pieces on a chessboard, He surrounds you with His Presence and moves in exactly the right order. He’s not the sort to operate on you without putting you to sleep first. He cares about your comfort and looks upon your lack even before you may be aware of your deepest needs.

 

Lord God,

Creator of earth, sea, and sky,

Flesh, blood, and bones,

Have mercy on us.

 

The world can be a big

And fearsome place

And we can feel so small

 

Help us relax in your hands

In your nearness

And in your timing

 

Help us trust You

Which is the hardest

And best effort ever

 

We make of ourselves

A gift to you

Knowing you intend

Only good.

 

Whatever our story

Lead us to believe

The heart of truth

Which is

The immensity of

Your Love

For us.

 

Amen.