June 30 was my birthday. It marked the date on which I became two years older than my father was when he retired in 1990. Two years older than when he retired.
Some years back, I used to choose a kind of theme for each new year of my life, summed up in a few syllables. I always consider everyone’s anniversary of birth to be their own personal new year’s day. I decided to choose a theme for this new year. It is three simple words: hold it gently.
The it is all of it. Life. Health. Work. Hopes. Expectations. Fears. Time. Faith. Love. Memory. Today and tomorrow. You name it. That’s the it.
To hold it is to respect it, to take it seriously, to care for it, to be grateful for it. All of it is gift. As the Apostle Paul wisely wrote more than a few days back, “Everything you have was given to you. So, if everything you have was given to you, why do you act as if you got it all by your own power” (1 Corinthians 4:7 ERV).
Everything (see that list of its a couple of paragraphs back and add anything more you can think of) has been given to you and me. The origin of it all is found in the One who is the Origin of all. You know who that is.
So I want my basic stance to all of it day to day, moment by moment, to be gratitude. I am constantly receiving the sustaining and the renewal of all these fundamental gifts that are given me as graces, not one of them earned. (And not one of them can be earned). I have never held in my hands the currency that could buy any of these gifts. Simply because such a currency does not exist – not US dollar, not bitcoin, not anything else.
So I hold my life, and all that is of it, in thanksgiving, always.
For me this means that my basic job, always and everywhere, is not operation, it is cooperation. (Very un-American). I am not the initiator the vast majority of the time. Even if I am allowed to think that I am. My job is to cooperate with the loving and gentle Hand that is in fact in charge of the whole shebang (https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/shebang). And that is some of the best news I’ve heard over the last 64 years.
Gently. As I celebrate my birthday this year, in this neck of God’s woods we are returning to ‘normal.’ I have said it before and I will say it again: I’m deadset against that move. Normal as we live it in first world nations in the 21st century is sheer inhuman madness, and the best thing to do is to leave as much of it as possible in the rear view mirror. It pushes, demands, cold calls, scams, exhausts and undoes us. That’s normal‘s job description, and he has been pretty damned good at it. Time to retire, old buddy normal. Buy a farm, put a rocker on the wrap-around porch and sit still.
In other words friends, hold it gently. Hold it all gently. Picture yourself, in memory, the first time you held a newborn infant precious to you. With what gentle loving care did you hold that little one? How fully did time stop and that moment be revealed as all that mattered? This year, and beyond, I desire deeply to hold the it that God has lovingly given to me in just that way. How precious it all is. How beautifully precious.
The pandemic has taught me (and you too?) to take seriously something I really already knew. The universe doesn’t owe me another day of life. It didn’t owe me the first one. Or any of the 23,377 days I have lived since. Again, it is all grace. I love the memory of all those days. And this one, and the ones to come, I will hold them gently.
6 thoughts on “Hold it gently.”
It is amazing how we relate our life events to our parents. My mom passed away at 62 and when I was that age I calculated the day when I was the exact age she was. It was a day for quiet thought and reflection and also how much I missed her. Some might think this morbid, but it made me realize many things and one was to appreciate each new day I had that she didn’t. Of course I don’t always adhere to this but I do try. I love your phrase, “hold it gently”. Yes, we need to do that and get rid of that which doesn’t belong in our lives. Thank you.
Thank you Paula. From generation to generation we belong to one another, and we learn.
I love the way you think…and share your love and your thinking.
Shirley F B Carter
Thank you so much Shirley. That means a lot. I am very happy to have a copy of your new book to read. I look forward to talking about it with you.
Thank you for this birthday reflection, John, and the wisdom it contains.
Congratulations, Fr. John, we hope to visit you soon!