A few years ago I wrote a blogpost called ‘Leaning’, a reponse to a particularly nasty hospital admission for pneumonia. In that post I explored how I’d come to the edge of myself, how the pain had ruled my days and my nights, and all I could do was lean into God – and I found God there, in the depths.
These last few weeks I’ve had to do some leaning, too, but there’s also been a great deal of holding. This hospital admission hasn’t been anything like as acute as that one, but it’s been painful and emotionally draining, because it came at a time when I should have been celebrating something. I don’t want to use this space to indulge in pity, but there’s a bit of me left sitting tearfully on a bed while the world carries on, while the launch party for my book Catching Contentment carries on without me, while publication day comes and goes without me being present at places I so wanted to be present.
Yet I was held. I was marvellously held. A friend reminded me of the passage from Exodus 17 where Moses stood on a hill holding his arms up, in order to win a battle. When he grew too tired, they brought him a stone to sit on and then stood next to him and held his arms up for him, holding him steady until the work was done. The last couple of weeks have felt a little like that for me: I was too tired of holding my arms up. I needed to sit down and let someone else carry it a while, and so many of you were there next to me, helping me sit, holding my arms. On publication day, so many of you shared and reviewed and blogged and talked about the book, or held me up by messages and visits and cards and gifts, and videos of the events I missed. You knew that I was hurting, that my body was bent over, that I could no longer lift myself. You knew I was weeping, heavy with disappointment, weighed down with sadness. And you held me. The love and care I’ve received through this difficult time has been incredible, and I am so very grateful.
Thank you for holding my arms up.
I found holding from somewhere else, too. I thought about it in terms of feeling like I was at the bottom of a deep pit, alone, everyone else at the top cheering me on and urging me out, but I was still there. Still unable.
But with God it felt different. It wasn’t that he was there at the top with the crowd, who were already so very helpful and loving, but he was somewhere else. He wasn’t absent. He wasn’t standing at the top calling me out, telling me to get myself together, or that I’d be fine soon. He wasn’t even throwing me a rope, telling me to climb it, to scramble out.
He was at the bottom with me.
He’s there as long as we’re there, in the very depths of our own pits and our own pain and our own stress and our own disappointment. I love the verse from Deuteronomy 33 which says this:
The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.
And that’s what I’ve found, once again in this pit of disappointment. The everlasting arms always there, always deeper even than me, always holding.