“He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather he lambs in his arms, he will carry them in his bosom.”- Isaiah 40:11
“Christianity is not about religion. It’s about faith, about being held, about being forgiven. It’s about finding joy and finding home.”- Bear Grylls
My wife Vicki’s ninety-five year old aunt, Elsie Strader (photo c. 1960) lives at the Augusta Area Home in Augusta, Wisconsin. Augusta is a town of 1,578 people located approximately twenty miles east of Eau Claire. Elsie spends her days in a customized wheelchair designed to support her back and head. Her hands, which once milked cows and canned vegetables, no longer possess a farm wife’s strength. Yet Aunt Elsie remains cheerful, loves to read the newspaper, and is cherished by the nursing home staff. Most importantly, she is privileged to just be held in her Good Shepherd’s arms.
Throughout our ministry or vocational calling, we were God’s hands of blessing, comfort, and leadership to others. Then our downsizing or vocation loss hit out of nowhere. Barely holding on, we struggle to maintain a sense of control. It is precisely at this moment when God can work in our hearts, as Ruth Graham notes:
“Often, the more we work at holding ourselves together without turning to God, the higher we build up our walls. In the process we not only wall ourselves in, but we wall God out. And yet it is when we are undone, messy, and vulnerable that God does his deep, comforting work within us.”
Theologian Martin Marty describes the need for a “wintry spirituality” when warmth and joy have been taken from us and a sunny disposition alone won’t bring them back. Dr. Marty states that in our pain we’ll discover that we are not alone. We may believe our world is falling apart, but in God’s eyes it’s falling into place.
Honestly acknowledging our brokenness prepares us to just be held in Jesus’ loving arms. John Ortberg writes:
“When we are passionately honest with God, . . . are genuinely opening ourselves up to God, when we complain in hope that God can still be trusted- then we are asking God to create the kind of condition in our heart that will make resting in his presence possible again.”