"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.
Rev. G. Todd Williams is the author of the book, "Remember Me When..." and is a former hospice chaplain and pastor.