Love, we are in God’s hand. How strange now, looks the life he makes us lead; So free we seem, so fettered fast we are!
Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for? ~Robert Browning from “Andrea del Sarto”
We have had names for you: The Thunderer, the Almighty Hunter, Lord of the snowflake and the sabre-toothed tiger. One name we have held back unable to reconcile it with the mosquito, the tidal wave, the black hole into which time will fall. You have answered us with the image of yourself on a hewn tree, suffering injustice, pardoning it; pointing as though in either direction; horrifying us with the possibility of dislocation. Ah, love, with your arms out wide, tell us how much more they must still be stretched to embrace a universe drawing away from us at the speed of light. ~R.S.Thomas “Tell Us”
Ah, Love You the Incarnate, stretched and fettered to a tree
arms out wide embracing us who try to grasp a heaven which eludes us
this heaven, Your heaven brought down to us within your wounded grip and simply handed over.
The angel said there would be no end to his kingdom. So for three hundred days I carried rivers and cedars and mountains. Stars spilled in my belly when he turned. Now I can’t stop touching his hands, the pink pebbles of his knuckles, the soft wrinkle of flesh between his forefinger and thumb. I rub his fingernails as we drift in and out of sleep. They are small and smooth, like almond petals. Forever, I will need nothing but these.
But all night, the visitors crowd around us. I press his palms to my lips in silence. They look down in anticipation, as if they expect him to suddenly spill coins from his hands or raise a gold scepter and turn swine into angels.
Isn’t this wonder enough that yesterday he was inside me, and now he nuzzles next to my heart? That he wraps his hand around my finger and holds on? ~Tania Runyan “Mary” from Nativity Suite
Now, newborn, in wide-eyed wonder he gazes up at his creation. His hand that hurled the world holds tight his mother’s finger. Holy light spills across her face and she weeps silent wondering tears to know she holds the One who has so long held her. ~Joan Rae Mills from “Mary”in the Light Upon Light Anthology by Sara Arthur
The grip of the newborn is, in fact, superhuman. It is one of the tests of natural infant reflexes that are checked medically to confirm an intact nervous system in the newborn. A new baby can hold their own weight with the power of their hand hold, and Jesus would have been no different, except in one aspect: He also held the world in His infant hands.
We have been held from the very Beginning, and have not been let go. Try as we might to wiggle free to go our own way, He keeps a powerful grip on us.
We know the strength of the Lord whose hands “hurled the world” into being.
This is what our good God has done for us… He hangs on tight.
Good people all, this Christmas time Consider well and bear in mind What our good God for us has done In sending his beloved son
With Mary holy we should pray To God with love this Christmas Day In Bethlehem upon that morn There was a blessed Messiah born
Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep To whom God’s angels did appear Which put the shepherds in great fear’
Prepare and go, ‘ the angels said ‘To Bethlehem, be not afraid For there you’ll find, this happy morn A princely babe, sweet Jesus born
With thankful heart and joyful mind The shepherds went, this babe to find And as God’s angel had foretold They did our saviour Christ behold
Within a manger he was laid And by his side the virgin maid Attending on the Lord of life Who came on earth to end all strife
Good people all, this Christmas time Consider well and bear in mind What our good God for us has done In sending his beloved Son
With Mary holy we should pray To God with love this Christmas day In Bethlehem upon that morn There was a blessed Messiah born
This is the grip, like this: both hands. You can close your eyes if you like. When I say, “Now,” it’s time. Don’t wait or it’s all over. But not too soon, either—just right. Don’t worry. Let’s go. Both hands. ~William Stafford, “Survival Course” from Even in Quiet Places.
I know well the feeling of pulling against a momentum determined to break free of the strength I can muster to keep it under control. This is how my life, personally and professionally has often felt over the decades. It seems I am barely hanging on, at times losing my grip, my feet braced but slipping beneath me.
The full-uddered cow in the painting is compelled to join her herd in a pastoral scene just across the creek, but the milk maid must resist the cow’s escape. For the cow’s benefit and comfort, she must be milked. The cow has another agenda. She has snapped her rope tie, almost pulled up the stake, and in a show of strength and determination, the maid braces to pull a much larger animal around to retie her and restore things to how they were.
The action suggests the maid may succeed, but the cow’s attention is directed far afield. She doesn’t even feel the tug on her halter. We’re not fully convinced the cow won’t suddenly pull loose and break away from the maid’s grip, leaping the stream, tail raised straight in the air like a flag of freedom.
Right now, as spring advances rapidly with grass growing thick in the pastures, our horses smell that richness in the air. Sometimes this tug of war takes place when my plan is different than the horse’s. The fields are too wet for them to be out full time yet, so they must wait for the appropriate time to be released to freedom. The grass calls to them like a siren song as I feed them their portion of last summer’s uninviting hay. They can pull my shoulders almost out of joint when they are determined enough, they break through fences in their pursuit of green, they push through stall doors and lift gates off hinges. Right now I’m barely an adequate counterbalance to the pursuit of their desires and I struggle to remind them I’m on the other end of their lead rope.
Each day I find I try too hard to restore order in my life, on the farm, in the house, in my work, with my family. I want to pull that cow back around, get her tied up and relieved of her burden of milk so that it can nurture and replenish others. Sometimes I hang on, only to be pulled roughly along on the ground, scraped and yelling in the process.
Sometimes I just let go and have to try to catch that cow all over again.
Once in awhile I successfully get the cow turned around and actually milked without a spill.
I’ve held on with both hands. I’m clasping them together in prayer and petition that I won’t get pulled into the mud. I’ve got a grip. And maybe, just maybe, I will make cheese….