What if God Simply Wants to Hold You?

My Column for The Elgin Review 12.11.19

“What if God simply wants to hold you and love you?” Anne, my spiritual director asked me. Sitting in her cozy corner room looking out the windows at quiet sports fields blanketed in snow below, I held that thought.

I have a nativity scene made of cast resin with only three figures, Mary, Joseph and the baby. Mary lies on her side, her arm crooked in the way of mothers after giving birth, ready to cradle her baby at her breast. Joseph sits, his knees drawn up and his hands open, in nervous readiness to hold his newborn son. The baby is swaddled and sleeping. In this nativity there is no manger, only loving arms as cradles and new parents’ eyes gazing down in wonder on their sleeping son. Sometimes Joseph holds the baby, sometimes sweet Jesus sleeps in his weary mother’s arms under his father’s watchful gaze.

“What if God simply wants to hold you and love you?” I imagined God holding me as tenderly as my nativity Mary and Joseph hold their newborn son. Seeing me, not with critique, but with wonder, looking on me with tenderness and awe. Holding me, safe and protected. Soothing me with sweet lullaby sounds.

I was avoiding time in prayer. I was overwhelmed and soul-weary. I had been wounded and I was ignoring God. I told Anne I wasn’t on the outs with God, I was merely keeping my distance. She laughed and asked why. Slow to answer, eventually I said, “Because, I’m afraid. If I listen for God’s voice, God is going to ask me to do something hard, or something I don’t want to do.” She looked quizzically at me. “Like going to Zaire, or leaving the congregation I loved to do not-for-profit work. God has asked some fairly big things of me in the past, and I’m not ready for something like that right now.”

“What if God simply wants to hold you and love you?”

Long ago the prophet, Isaiah wrote,

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel,
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you…
…For I am the Lord your God…
…Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you…
…Do not fear, for I am with you.  (Isaiah 43:1-5 selected New Revised Standard Version).

My conversation a year ago with Anne stays with me still. At the core of the story of Jesus is the profound truth that we are loved. We are loved by the source of all creation. We are created in love to be loved, to share love, to live in love.

You, my dear reader, I ask you what Anne asked me, what if God simply wants to hold you and love you?

Will you give God opportunity in this holy season to gaze upon you with love?

You are always welcome to worship God with us at Park Congregational United Church of Christ. We’re ten miles west of Elgin on Highway 70 and ½ a mile south. This coming Sunday we are having a no-rehearsal Christmas pageant during our service at 9:15.

I love to hear from you. My email is beckyzmcneil@gmail.com

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