Apr 16, 2010

Richard Gotthardt

Redhead with flat palm raised

HALT.  It’s not just a command; it’s also an acrostic that I was told of years ago.  These words are meant to function as a kind of internal gauge- to cause us to pay attention and to take appropriate action if we are headed for trouble.  Here’s what it stands for:

H- Hungry– Am I aware of appetites that are strong right now- whether they are for food, for sex, or some other drive?
A- Angry– Do I notice that my fuse is short, that I’m irritable (more than usual) or prone to little anger daydreams these days?
L-Lonely– Am I aware of feeling more isolated, wishing that I had closer friendships, feeling a sense of loneliness?
T-Tired– Am I physically or emotionally run down?  Do I just wish that I could stay in bed, turn off the phone, and sleep?  OK, we’d all love to do that.  But am I more tired than usual- or am I living in a perpetual state of tiredness these days?

Did you find yourself identifying with any of these words or descriptions?  Some of you do.  You’re probably feeling something like, “Yes!  All of them-all at once!  Help me!”  Others of you don’t like those words at all.  You’re quite sure that none of these apply to you, since these are words for people who “whine and complain”.  If you ever do feel them, you’d probably just tell yourself something like, “Get over it!  Life hard- deal with it!”  Somewhere between these two extremes is where the rest of us find ourselves.  So what’s the point?  

I’m convinced that most of us live our lives with a pretty high level of disengagement with our own self- with our own soul.  We get busy- busy doing things, busy taking care of all the stuff that cries out for attention, and we find precious little time to attend to the condition of our own internal world.  See, those words used above are not just for observation, they’re triggers.  If I’m feeling one of them- let’s say hungry- I’m going to reach for something to quench that urge.  Often that’s fine- as long as it’s within the boundaries that God’s established for my protection.  But I can easily be tempted towards something that seems to offer relief but is harmful or wrong when I’m vulnerable- a sexual fantasy, overeating, an overindulgence to try to make up for emptiness elsewhere.

But we’re often embarrassed at our raw neediness- we’d prefer to deny it.  It may help to know that needy people share good company.  The Psalms are full of needy- actually desperate- cries.  “Answer me when I call to you!” (Lonely) “Awake, my God; decree justice!” (Angry) “I am worn out from groaning. “ (Tired) “As the deer pants for water, so my soul longs for You, O God.” (Hungry)  These cries are echoed by men and women throughout the ages, many of which are recorded in Scripture.

Our neediness is simply a reality of our human condition, like it or not.  Our hunger and our wants serve to remind us that we are dependent- on God and on others.  And they are meant to draw us together in community.  Let me ask you this: do you have a community that shares with one another at the level of HALT?  If you don’t, perhaps it’s time to pursue relationships like that.  A first step might be to choose a little vulnerability- let someone know what’s going on inside you these days.  Ask them to pray.  Be ready to listen to them, too.  You might find that God meets you there.

Richard’s Ramblings

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