Here, Hold This.

“Here, hold this,” she said. We had touched down and taxied to the gate. The seatbelt signs had been turned off and the aisle seat-holders were standing and carefully retrieving their belongings from the overhead bins, since things sometimes shift during the course of flight. “Here, hold this,” she said and handed me her, I would guess, 13 month old curly-haired little girl. “I need to get our bags down and can’t do it and hang onto her at the same time.” I suppose I looked sturdy, and maybe the faces I’d made at the little girl to entertain her and me during the flight made the mom figure I must be just weird enough to hold her little girl without freaking out.

As I took her, the little girl looked at me and giggled. “I get that a lot,” I said to her, and squished my face into my pumpkin-squash imitation and she did the same back to me. We continued until the mom finished piling the bags onto her seat and turned to take the child back.

“Thanks,” she said.

“It takes a village,” I said, and we deplaned and headed into our separate worlds.

“Here, hold this.” Sometimes it’s a purse, sometimes a hammer or screwdriver or drill bit. Sometimes it’s a glass of water or a bowl or dish that’s too heavy to both hold and spoon out a portion onto a plate at the same time. Sometimes it’s a grocery bag while there’s a bit of a panicked search for car keys, sometimes it’s a baby when you’re trying to load in the diaper bag, the extra set of clothes, the favorite toys, and your own briefcase and backpack with that make-your-life-easier laptop.

“Here, hold this.” Sometimes it’s a hand. An extension of a heart that is breaking that needs to know someone’s there to offer support and a connecting awareness that we’re not alone as we walk through the hard stuff. Sometimes it’s a shoulder that holds a bowed head as the tears finally fall freely without need to hold them inside for everyone else’s comfort.

“Here, hold this.” Sometimes it’s simply space. Hold this space for me so that I know I’m safe. Hold this space while I figure out where to go from here, how to be authentic in a complex and sometimes dangerous world, how to tap into a courage that empowers others to risk their vulnerability as I’m willing to risk mine. Hold this space for me so that I know I have a home, a place, an acknowledgment that I’m alive and I’m enough.

“Here, hold this.” Sometimes it’s a place for unmitigated happiness and deep hope. Hold this place open for me to come and go in my wonderings and my wanderings of what the world is all about and where it is I fit in the beauty and the audacity and the magnificence of the vastness of a universe that yet values each uniquely made individual.

“Here, hold this.” Sometimes it’s simply understanding. Hold this understanding you have of me over years of our lives together so that when my ability to articulate what’s going on in, around, and through me is less than clear, you still trust the essence of character, and spirit, and soul that you’ve known longer than yesterday. So that when life becomes difficult and messy, we can still know we are connected beyond the mistakes and the hurt feelings.

“Here, hold this.” Sometimes it’s the lid while you use both hands to tip the cast-iron skillet to drain the grease from the chicken that will become the comfort food made with the generosity of love that welcomes everyone home and says without words that your favorite meal is as important as it always was and even in a world that is ever-changing, sometimes there are things that don’t.

“Here, hold this.” Sometimes it’s the grace of forgiveness needed when mistakes have been made and words have been said that cannot be unsaid and actions have been taken that cannot be undone. The grace of acknowledging the hard, hard work it takes to ask for, offer, and receive a forgiveness that goes far deeper into the soil of existence than intellect and reason ordinarily allow.

“Here, hold this.” Hold this sacred season called Lent. Hold this invitation from a God who seeks good things for us, whose heart breaks when we hold on to the burdens of temptation and sin as if our own self-imposed punishments are what God imposes on us. A God who holds the knowing of our hearts and souls and minds and strengths; who holds the knowing of our worst thoughts, our darkest hours, our deepest regrets, our most hidden fears and deeply loves us into releasing those burdens from death into the promise of life.

“Here, hold this.” Hold this cross of ashes on your forehead. Hold yourself tenderly as the smudges are made to remind us that from dust we have come and to dust we all shall return. Hold open the door to the honesty and truth of who we are and to whom we belong, that the identifying cross of ash dust on our foreheads may remind both us and the world that we are claimed, imperfect and weak and finite, we are claimed no less and no more than those whose foreheads bear no smudges on this holy for some, random for others, day called Ash Wednesday.

“Here, hold this.” This friendship that God seeks with us in the human life of Jesus. This friendship that is about trust and disappointment and commitment and laughter and tears and hope and hardship and life and death and yes, resurrection.

“Here, hold this.” This promise. This life. The tomb couldn’t. Death wouldn’t. Ah, but we? We can, you know, hold this. This promise. This life. In our hearts, in our minds, in our souls, in our strengths, in our love of our neighbors as ourselves. We hold this gift, for one another, for ourselves. We hold it loosely, that it is given away freely. We hold it gently, that it is shared with compassion. We hold it courageously, that it empowers others around us. We hold it humbly, that we recognize it both is and isn’t about us. We hold it for eternity, this reality of death and this promise of life.

So here, hold this. This hand that bears the scars, the definition of power that yields a Spirit that finally is not broken by our brokenness; hold it tenderly even as we are held this most vulnerable and sacred day.