"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him."
~ Luke 15:2
Have you ever been embraced by arms that made you feel absolutely welcomed and safe?
As a child, I was blessed by the arms of family members that were open to me, and made me feel that way. However, no pair of arms made me feel that way more than the arms of my grandmother, Margaret "Mamaw" Wilkes.
Mamaw Wilkes was a person who paid attention to fine details. An artist, she sewed magnificent pieces, painted beautiful pictures, and offered a home of hospitality that any stranger would feel welcomed to visit. Even though it has been over 40 years since I last knew those arms, to this day, if I smell Jergen's hand lotion, I still think of her. Funny how our mind remembers.
There was something about running to greet her, her arms embracing, and the words, "I'm so glad to see you." I always believed and knew those words to be true, even when my own life was filled with uncertainty, struggles, and living with the choices that I had made as someone coming of age.
Lately I have been drawn to reread Henri Nouwen's book, "The Return of the Prodigal Son." I have been thinking a lot about where he shares of his own struggles in life, and that how sometimes we invite darkness into our lives just to "make God," prove that the light of God can overcome all darkness.
In many ways, the open arms of my grandmother were that light.
I have to believe that the son who returns home after making a mess of things in his life, was greeted and felt worth, even after all he had done and experienced.
For those of us who have experienced arms that embrace when we have known hurt, sadness, disappointment or failure; they are the very thing that doesn't just embrace our wounds, but they are healing.
I have been asked many times why I use the phrase, "Stay in God's grip!"
I guess it's because I want us each to know that embrace. To be reminded that when we experience the presence of the arms of God, that there is a sense of wholeness. When we hear the words, "I'm so glad to see you," we somehow take the things that the world has taught or told us, and relinquish the power that it seems to have over us. That in a moment, we see ourselves as God sees us and knows us to be.
It's knowing that everything will somehow be alright.
For me, it's not necessarily going out and making a mess of things, returning home to a party, and a disgruntled sibling. It is a story that we all can relate to. It's knowing arms that love, and hands that hold, when we need them most.
I'm thankful for the human hands that have held me, and the arms of God that are always open!
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2021
The picture with this post is of my sister, Laura Williams Barker, with my grandmother, Margaret Vivian Ross Wilkes and myself in 1978. This was the last visit that we shared with her as she died a few months later.
Be sure to watch for my new book coming out later this year, "Remember Me When..." being published by Chalice Press.
"But the person who is forgiven only a little will love only a little."
~ Luke 7:47b
Sometimes I wonder why it is that my soul can become so restless. My family will tell you that I am two very different people who juggle to be one. One is the person that struggles to make sure that the image that others see is one of a faithful follower, secure in his faith, and focused on the journey, while the other side of me is often weak, insecure and anxious, who fails miserably to make healthy choices for me life.
The painful reality is that I am both. At times one will overtake the other, and when the two are in conflict, I will often retreat, rather than facing what needs to be done, while failing to admit that the struggle is real.
I think that if we were all honest with ourselves, we all have things that we juggle. Some are just better at keeping everything moving in the air. I remember as a kid watching a man take a plate and place it on the top of a pole, spinning the plate, and then standing the pole straight up. The plate would remain safe as long as the speed was correct, and that it didn't begin to wobble. The man soon had a dozen plates, all spinning, entertaining the crowd. He then removed each one safely, and the audience cheered his accomplishment.
I don't have to attempt this to know that I am not someone who can spin plates on a pole. First, it is not something I feel like I am called to do. The other, for me, is that I know that the risk is too great, and the audience, or the world, will see a clumsy man, out of control, and destroying a perfectly good set of dishes.
Let's face it, sometimes life is just not easy. In many ways I know that both of the people that my family sees juggling, sometimes with the precision of the man who could spin plates with perfection, while sometimes seeing the man who literally destroys the set of plates, in reality is me.
While I struggle, I also realize there is a God who is present as well. That with the dawn of each new day, seems to say, "I believe in you..."
A God who knows me so well... all of me. A God, who like the father of the prodigal son, waits. A God, who looked at a shepherd boy and saw a king, knew. And a God, who took a man who didn't see the strength in his voice to free a people, pushed. Our God, who understands us better than we do ourselves...
I will admit, it is hard to share about the times when I struggle, but it certainly does not hold the same power it once did, when the struggle finds it's way into the light, and is met with love and those who have the courage to walk with you until you find a place that is safe.
Stay in God's grip!
God of the Current...
God of discovery and re-creation,
help me to know
that there will indeed be times of wandering,
but in my wandering
lead me to green meadows;
I understand that there are times of darkness
but while in that darkness,
I know that there will also be the dawn;
that in my heart
which seeks You
through my whole being
will begin to flow
washing over the valleys of my soul;
and that I will journey
wet from the experience
when again I find that I am wandering.
G. Todd Williams (c) 2021
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain at Essential Hospice, Webster, Texas, and is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.