Holding On

Holding On

Some of you dear servants of Christ have just put your son or daughter on a plane, to fly to a boarding school far away. You won’t see them for three months. You will repeat this two more times this year: first, the giddy anticipation of their arrival and straining for your first glimpse of them coming down the exit ramp. Few joys compare!

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

Secondly, the unfolding joys of being together again. Please, please lay aside a few of your “ministry” appointments for this short month. Revel in your mothering ministry. You won’t regret time spent diffusing the light of the gospel to the disciples you birthed.

Then there’s the third, and necessary strand to make the picture complete: seeing the back of her as she turns to face her future.

 

Holding On

She plays her music.
I quilt and listen
to the chords I hear
one month in four.

I let her music roll around in my heart
Because I know the moment will end –
How long can I cling,
hold on?
Not too long, lest I rob her of joy.

Unbearably hot, this weather.
I prepare iced coffee
which we share together –
a favorite of hers.

Conversation flows happily from serious to hilarious,
My daughter, my friend,
How long can I cling,
hold on?
Just short of “too long” lest she suspect my heart.

We stroll downtown
admiring the latest facelifts in our African city.
She is slender and strong
But I am not too old beside her!

Our feet in step, our hearts growing closer
as she becomes a woman.
How long can I cling,
hold on?
Not too long, lest she be forced to tear herself away.

It’s time.
She, anxious to put the long, bumpy miles behind her.
Me, anxious about the inevitable pain.
We embrace. I snatch at my breath
that escapes in a sob.
How long can I cling to her,
hold on?
Oh, mother, not too long – but long enough
to express what our hearts already know.
My daughter, I must let you slide easily,
Gently from my grasp.

How long can I cling to You,
hold on?

“Oh, daughter, cling to Me,
hold on.
I will never let you go.
You will never turn around to find Me gone.

Blessed are the mothers who let go …
and cling.”

January 3, 1999

 

Oh, don’t forget the rest of the verse. It’s the promise Jesus made to all those who carry His gospel to wherever He sends them – you to your village, your son and daughter to their dorm:

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.“

“I am with you to bear you up, to plead your cause; with you in all your services, in all your sufferings, to bring you through them with comfort and honor.” Matthew Henry

“I will not leave you or forsake you. I Am, the One with all authority in heaven and earth, your Friend who sticks closer to you than the sweetest relation —will forever hold on to you.

Matthew 28:18-20; Joshua 1:5; Proverbs 18:24

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A Watcher for the Sojourner

A Watcher for the Sojourner

Reading Psalm 146 today, I thought of you, my friends who know what it is to move back and forth between countries, continents and cultures; who experience a life-style of goodbyes. I think of you, the expert at home decorating with whatever is on hand and accomplishing a sense of place inside of two weeks; you who search out local ingredients and invent tasty, once-in-a-lifetime meals that can’t be duplicated in the next location. I think of you, my missionary friend, my military child, who is ever conscious of the truth that we really are pilgrims here, always living in transit.

“The Lord watches over the sojourners.” Sojourner is defined as a person who is living in a place temporarily. What really grabbed my attention in this Psalm is the fact that the sojourner is mentioned right in there with the special attention the Lord pays to the oppressed, the hungry, the prisoners, the blind [and I think we can say the disabled in general], the depressed in spirit, the widow and the orphan. Take another look at this list and we see those who are left behind in the mainstream of social life. They live in the margins, outside of the daily rhythm of public and domestic life. Does that seem like your life? If living is riding a pony on the merry-go-round, these people are the ones sitting on the bench watching, powerless to jump on. We who spend decades of our lives moving from one temporary place to the next are like those who lope alongside the wheel but don’t ever seem to achieve the stride necessary to leap up onto it. And it certainly isn’t going to stop for us. God knows us, my friend. He knows the trials and temptations unique to our sojourner status. He has not forgotten that we are, after all, dust. Our dust is composed of change, uncertainty and temporal transience, never quite fitting in, a part of our heart always someplace where we aren’t. There are trials and temptations that are peculiar to such dust. We are prone to particular sins and weaknesses. Our Father knows this. He knows our dust. And He has a particular promise for us. He will watch over us.

God our Father watches over the sojourner. To watch is to observe attentively over a period of time. He watches without blinking. He doesn’t watch like a casual observer; waiting to see what will happen, or for his entertainment. He is a Watcher who goes before, removing obstacles we don’t even notice. He guards our back from innumerable spiritual attacks which he knows we aren’t ready to face today. He watches for the pit carved out by the enemy to swallow up our restless soul. He watches as our guard, to protect us from misunderstandings or irreparable cultural faux pas . He watches; he sees what you, and I, don’t because we can never completely understand the culture where we are or the assignment we have. There are too many unknowns in our lives; too many blind spots. He knows the unknowns, sees what we never will and Watches out for us, you and I. He watches with intent – the intent to comfort and preserve our souls.

My friends, if our God works justice for the oppressed, frees prisoners, opens blind eyes, lifts up those who are bowed down, relieves the orphan and the widow, you can be sure that He watches you, a sojourner. And you can be confident that His watching is exactly what you need. Trust yourself to his vision and view of things. Rest your soul today, because God is your Watcher and Preserver.