When Jesus Takes You By the Hand
I have a self-destructive streak with a trigger as reliable as a new moon. Whenever I have some new love in my life, I immediately begin to think ceaselessly of the worst kinds of things that could possibly happen. As a newlywed, filled with love and longing for Logan, I couldn’t stop thinking of how horrible it would be if he ever cheated on me. He would come home from work, envelope me in a hug, and I would burst into tears.
After getting Mabel as a puppy (do not underestimate the love for a good dog), Logan once woke up in the middle of the night to an empty bed and found me on the floor in the hallway, holding Mabel and sobbing after a horrific nightmare in which she died.
But nothing could prepare me for the imaginative prowess of my worrying mind from the moment I saw the pink cross on a pregnancy test. Before Valentine was even born, I remember watching children throwing large rocks off a balcony in order to crack open the geode’s inside. Suddenly, I imagined my baby crawling along the sidewalk underneath that balcony and myself helpless to stop the rocks bashing in her skull. I had to deliberately control my escalating breath and go inside to calm myself and pray until that image had receded.
That day, I realized three things: I could worry about anything, I had control over (essentially) nothing, and that I must learn to entrust my dearest loves to the Father who loves them more than I do.
But I still have regressions.
One of these times was when I had indirect contact with a family whose child was dying of cancer. I couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t stop imagining Valentine on a hospital bed, losing all her hard-won hair, watching as tears slipped down her cheeks in the midst of ceaseless pain. How could a parent bear it? Impossible.
But what if it came time to say good-bye, what then? How do you look in the eyes of a four-year-old and explain that they must go somewhere you’ve never been, that they must leave you indefinitely, that their short beloved existence will soon be over? This, I thought, must be the worst that life has to offer. Nothing could be more unbearable.
Even Valentine, who shares my predisposition to worry, often cries about the prospect of death. She’ll burst into tears, randomly, while I brush her hair in the mornings or during our evening meal, and say she never wants to leave me. That no matter how good heaven is, it’s not better than being together.
And then one night, Logan read this devotion to Valentine before bed ::
When you belong to Jesus, you have THREE birthdays! There’s your birthday when you were born into the world as a baby. Then there’s your birthday when you say yes to Jesus and you are born all over again into God’s whole new life. And then there the birthday after you die—when Jesus takes you by the hand and leads you through death—and you wake up with him into Perfect Life that won’t ever end.
The next morning, while Valentine helped me sweep the floors, she said, “Mama, isn’t it cool that I’ll have three birthdays? I would like to go on a walk with Jesus…”
And in that moment, I realized that even if I were ever called upon to face the worst that life had to offer, even in that moment, all I would have to do was take Valentine’s hand and put it in the hand of Jesus, and that she would be walking into the best that God has to offer.
I was stunned by my discovery, to suddenly find that my worst fears have been completely robbed of their terror. Because of God handing over his son to the worst that this world has to offer, there’s nothing that I can possibly face that won’t end in glory.
And one day I’ll die. I really will. But in that moment, no matter the pain or suffering or regret I have just been through, I will blink and be in a bright place, running into the arms of
When I think of this, I’m overcome with surprised joy, shaking my head at a future so devoid of lasting evil. There is no catastrophe that can come to me, no possibility—no matter how unrealistic or imagined—in which I do not also have to acknowledge a Savior who will come rushing to my side to save me from death or despair or eternal suffering or deserved punishment.
“I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” —Romans 8:38-39, The Message