We are often told to draw our strength from within. In other situations we are told to relinquish control and put our faith in God, or the Universe, or some other Greater Power that will take care of us. They are both right.
It depends on the situation, of course.
When you draw on what’s inside yourself, you know that it’s from your own inner being, and will be true to your own core beliefs. You know that it will not be depriving anyone of “their share” of a limited resource. When you draw from within, you know that you are not inadvertently incurring a debt that you will need to pay back at a later time, and that the energy you draw on will be a good fit with the rest of your personal resources. (This is not always a problem. In our personal experience, Thor was happy to lend us his strength in exchange for a good steak dinner. But when borrowing from a god, it’s good to know them well beforehand.)
Other times we simply let something greater than ourselves take care of us (Our Thor experience is closer to that.) I read, long ago, that two Indian philosophies were of the baby monkey, and the kitten. The monkey holds on tight to its mother as she swings through the trees, as long as he holds on, he’s safe. Many hold fast to the doctrine of their faith, trusting that it will get them through whatever crisis they are in.
The kitten, in contrast, holds nothing but hangs limp in its mother’s mouth in faith that it will be carried to safety with no action on its part. This is made possible by the instinct that makes small kittens go limp when the back of their neck is scruffed. Certainly 12 step programs advocate allowing yourself to be helped, and having faith that you will be. Most versions of this programs require you to put effort in, but also acknowledge that there are some aspects of your life over which you have no control
That’s the trick isn’t it? Knowing when you need help, and when you need to handle your problems yourself? Does the danger call for avoiding the danger, or doing something to remove the danger? (Go into the tornado shelter, or get to high ground?) Clearly knowing what the risks are helps choose the right course of action.
One of the greatest challenges in parenting is helping give your child the tools to make good choices. We watch our kids become mobile, and gain confidence to get farther from us. I’m rather fond of this image of a guardian angel, as it reminds me of the tarot trump The Fool. The mythology of Guardian angels informs us that these children are unaware that they are being protected. I have seen many discussions in Tarot circles about whether the dog is trying to warn the fool of the danger ahead, or driving him on. I also note the many memes circulating the internet reminding people ‘not to drive faster than their guardian angel can fly’, or portray a guardian angel looking exhausted from the hard task of keeping them from the unpleasant effects of their many poor decisions. I often wonder about the guardian beings who help humans, are they ancestors taking a parental role? Do they have some personal reason to want to help us? Is it their job? Are they assigned to help us survive or learn? Do our higher selves try to protect us from our bad choices? What’s in it for them?
Some, I am sure are simply benevolent, even heroic. Just as there are many sorts of people, many of the entities in the world take care of us. In accepting their protection with grace, we validate their role in the Universe, while, at the same time improving our own comfort. To cite another personal experience, as an herbalist I’ve often communicated with spirits of herbs who seem to be pleased to have us ingest them so that we may heal.
So sometimes we draw from within, the strength and knowledge that we have gathered in our lives and may now use to help ourselves and those around us, but sometimes we accept the help offered by those who share our Universe. There is a time for both.