Thankful. adjective. Expressing gratitude or appreciation. A series appearing on Thursdays in November.
This week, I have been afraid.
I was in DC when Paris was attacked. We were walking from the Revolutionary War memorial in the twilight, making plans, when the boyfriend stopped in the middle of the sidewalk. We stood still while he scrolled through breaking news. As we grocery shopped and ate dinner, more unfolded. Now the world is afraid. We’re fighting evil and fighting fear, and sometimes the two get confused. Opinions rage about whether we let in the poor and oppressed, and whether the risk is too great. My heart breaks. They want us to be afraid. And we are.
I was saying goodbye to DC and the boy. We stood by the river, the planes cruising over the Potomac, and I cried. For a moment, a weekend, everything was okay. His hand was in mine. When I boarded the plane, to return to real, separate life, I didn’t know what would happen. I still don’t. We’re stepping into new phases, seeing if our lives will draw together or apart. It scares me.
I was driving to school, to the fresh new placement. The first day had been overwhelming. The school held more people than my entire hometown, big kids who yelled in the halls and no longer looked at teachers with awe and appreciation. Our classroom didn’t have windows. I forgot where the water fountains were. I knew one person in all 1300, barely. At 7:13 a.m., as my windshield wipers flicked, I felt terribly alone.
All of these things were bearing down on my heart this week. And then a friend shared a verse that I can’t get out of my head. The psalmist is talking to God, laying out his grief over the world. But then he backpedals. “I’m still in your presence,” he says,” but you’ve taken my hand. You wisely and tenderly lead me, and then you bless me.*”
You’ve taken my hand.
This week, I am thankful that God takes my hand, and your hand, and the world’s hand.
Things are frightening, the future is uncertain, and life in our broken world seems so hard. We can’t ignore the pain. We shouldn’t try to, bandaging it with Christian clichés and trite words. Instead, we need to do the work of sitting in our hurt and watching for our Father’s presence and his comforting hand.
We need to trust that we have a God who is here, walking with us, giving us what we need. We need to find comfort and love and peace and stability in his grasp. We need to seek the beauty and truth of his presence. We need to open our ears and eyes and hearts for his gentle leading. We need to say, even with voices that tremble, “I’m still in your presence, but you’ve taken my hand. You wisely and tenderly lead me, and then you bless me.”
I am thankful that these things are still possible. I am thankful we have not been abandoned. May the world, and you, and I sincerely believe that this week.
*Psalm 73:23-24, MSG