This Is What It Means To Be Held

I was on my way home from somewhere sometime this week – isn’t it pitiful that I have no recollection what I was doing?!? – and caught a line or two from a song playing on k-love. I don’t normally listen to k-love. Among other things, it bothers me that it’s basically a national radio station. I’d rather listen to local things. Doesn’t really explain why I’m obsessed with NPR, though. What can I say? I’m nothing if not inconsistent!

Anyway, the line I heard was this:

…how it feels when the sacred is torn from your life and you survive…

Of course, with the whole weaning-from-antidepressants thing I immediately began crying and turned up the volume while I frantically grabbed scraps of paper and tried to capture some of the lyrics to look them up when I got home. Here’s what I found:

Held, by Natalie Grant

Two months is too little.
They let him go.
They had no sudden healing.
To think that providence would
Take a child from his mother while she prays
Is appalling.

Who told us we’d be rescued?
What has changed and why should we be saved from nightmares?
We’re asking why this happens
To us who have died to live?
It’s unfair.

Chorus:
This is what it means to be held.
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive.
This is what it is to be loved.
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell we’d be held.

This hand is bitterness.
We want to taste it, let the hatred NUMB our sorrow.
The wise hands opens slowly to lilies of the valley and tomorrow.

(Chorus)
This is what it means to be held.
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive.
This is what it is to be loved.
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell we’d be held.

Bridge:
If hope is born of suffering.
If this is only the beginning.
Can we not wait for one hour watching for our Savior?

(Chorus)
This is what it means to be held.
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive.
This is what it is to be loved.
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell we’d be held.
This is what it is to be loved.
And to know, that the promise was when everything fell, we’d be held
This is what it means to be held.

I think my biggest complaint over the last year was that I felt abandoned by God. My pain was great, my anger strong, and although I knew I couldn’t expect God to move my situation in my favor, I felt incapable of handling what I was given. And I felt He was being unresponsive when I told Him so. I don’t recall ever telling Him to stop giving me more to bear. Looking back, I think I was willing to bear whatever He chose to bring my way. But I wasn’t willing to bear it alone, not because I didn’t want to, but because I knew I wasn’t able.

During this time, someone reminded me of the Footprints poem. You know the one – the one where the man has a dream and sees only one set of footprints on the beach during what was the hardest time. He asks God why God abandoned him during the hard time and God tells Him that there was only one set of footprints because God was carrying Him through the pain. I basically scoffed at this reminder. I actually felt insulted and hurt by it. God was clearly not carrying me. In fact, I felt like He was doing the opposite of carrying me… perhaps throwing me out to sea? I don’t know.

I’ve since made my peace with that experience. And not just my peace. I feel like God has given me some clarity on what, exactly, He was accomplishing during that time. But even with that clarity, I certainly would never have said I felt held during that time period. Tolerated? Yes. Walked beside? Probably. Generally supported? Sure. But not held. I was walking on my own two feet, each step of which required excruciating effort.

Then I heard this song. The first verse and chorus screamed at me, quite specifically. I’ve never been a high scorer when it came to the whole interpretive reading portions on tests, so let me just clarify what I got out of the song. To me, it sounds like my most horrid nightmare – parents who lost their child after a short illness, with what appeared to be no intervention from God in spite of their many desperate prayers.

To follow that up with the phrase “this is what it feels to be held” hardly seems to make sense. If I were the mother in the song, I would feel completely gutted. Desperate. Completely unable to function. Frantic. Angry. And the author says this is what it feels to be held? Really? Tragedy happens, you beg for intervention, God declines, and the resulting feelings are what it feels to be held? If that’s held, I don’t think I want it.

But then I remembered something. It’s something I hate to remember; I’d much rather block it out. It hasn’t happened in quite a while, for which I am extremely thankful. It’s the one element of my parenting that has given me the most angst. I hate it, and I’ve always wished there was another way. I’ve logically analyzed every aspect of the circumstances surrounding this issue, and there’s never any other option.

It’s no secret that Gabe is a strong-willed child. He’s also easily overwhelmed, and he’s been known to lose control. Sometimes it’s just an emotional losing-of-control, and we walk him through the disappointment and anger that leads to his meltdown. Other times, his emotional loss of control leads to a physical loss of control, and he can get very aggressive. On one hand, my instinct is to get the heck outta dodge because nothing pushes my buttons more than a smack to my arm or a crack to my nose. But usually, my “mom instinct” takes over because I don’t think it’s right to leave him alone with feelings he doesn’t understand how to manage. I’m the grown-up. When he’s afraid, overwhelmed, scared, or in danger, it’s my job to help him learn how to stabilize the situation. It’s my job to stay and do whatever it takes to help him figure out how this works.

So what do I do? I hold him. I hold him. I stay with him and I hold him. But it’s not pleasant for either of us. He doesn’t want to be touched, let alone held. It requires sheer force on my part, and it usually ends up with at least one of us in tears. More often than not, that “one” is me. See, when he’s out of control and I hold him, he fights me. It takes every fiber of my being to keep him in a safe position. It usually involves me sitting on his bed with him facing away from me against my chest, my arms bear-hugging his upper body and my legs pretzeled around his so he can’t kick. It is not pretty. It it not comfortable. I hate every single minute of it. But I am holding him. And I will continue holding him until he is able to feel safe and be safe.

During this time, he can’t see me due to his position, but his tantrum is big enough that he often can’t hear me – not because he’s loud but because his emotions block it. It is a sheer battle of wills, and because I love him I am committed to outlasting him. I know he needs me to outlast him. He needs to know there’s something bigger than himself and there’s something bigger than his fears.

Maybe when God holds us, it’s not always gentle. Maybe when we’re most angry and afraid and out of control God holds us until we feel safe again. Maybe we don’t see Him because maybe He’s holding us – facing away from Himself – against His chest because it’s the most effective way to restrain a broken-hearted, angry individual. Maybe we can’t hear him because we’re yelling too loudly. Maybe we feel like his absence goes on so long because we’re still tantruming and He is committed to outlasting our tantrum. Maybe we feel like our backs are against the wall because our backs are against Him. Maybe it doesn’t always feel good to be held.

But maybe it’s okay. Maybe there’s no other way. Maybe the long-term progress outweighs the short-term pain. Maybe His silence is more a sign of commitment than abandonment.

Father, thank you for holding me when I didn’t want to be held. Thank you for holding me when I kicked and screamed and lashed out. Thank you for never explaining away my feelings or telling me how I was wrong. Thank you for outlasting me and making me feel safe again. And thank you for showing me how you carried me through the valley, more generously than I ever imagined possible.

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Comments

  1. Heidi,
    I’m not sure how I missed this post when you wrote it, but I came across it just now and wanted to say thanks. You articulated well this vague thought and feeling that I’ve had as I think back on the miscarriage I had in Feb 2008. I knew that God would not abandon me or give me more than I could handle, but I also did not feel held or protected in the least. That was confusing, especially when I contrasted it with how much peace and sheltering I felt while I was carrying Grace. I love your picture of my angry, confused, hurt self being held from behind by a Love determined to outlast my pain. So beautiful! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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