I hold things.
As a priest, I think that's often my most important job. Holding things doesn't come with detailed instructions or reflective books we can read and discuss in small groups. We humans come into the world knowing we need to hold things and learning how to hold things. It's not brain surgery. It's simply holding things.
I hold the paten as I distribute the Body of Christ to people. Adults who pray exact words. Children who examine the Body closely before consuming it. People who simply are going through the motions. People who are broken themselves and know something about deep woundedness. People who doubt and people who don't. I hold the Body of Christ for all of them to hold.
I hold hands. I hold the hands of little boys who are being baptized who aren't sure they will be able to walk up the step stool by themselves. I hold the hands of people in prayer circles as we gather for holy time. I hold the hands of precious ladies as they have yet another needle stick for a medical test that will hurt, but we talk about the weather or her weekly trips to the beauty parlor instead. I hold the hands of those who are making their final great journey until they let go of my hands and take the hands of God who is waiting for them just beyond the place we can see from this side of the Kingdom.
I hold anger and pain. Often, life is too much...too hard, too hurtful, too sad, too horrible...for one person to hold all of those feelings. So we share our heartaches and gashes of our souls. And we hold some of that pain for the other. We don't fix it or redeem it or give meaning to it. Nope. We just hold it for a while.
I even hold joy. Those amazing moments of laughter and delight, when new life and light bursts forth, are also shared. Shield the joyous, we pray. So I do by holding some of it, as well. Like the effervescence of life overflowing, we get showered by that joy. Hold on to that when it comes your way.
I hold silence. Life is noisy, and it is also silent. We seem to be profoundly good at adding words to the world, but holding silence it a bit harder. So I hold that, too. Quiet, still, silence to allow for the sighs to deep for words to have their place.
I hold people in their pain and grief. I hold them if they need to be held and cry. If they don't want to be held, I hold myself in that place and just sit with them. And they cry. I cry, too, at times. Sometimes I've wondered if the son or daughter or partner or parent would ever stop crying. I hold tissues, too, as they gather the tears. Again, I don't fix anything. I just hold.
I even hold a fair amount of crazy, but that's another post.
When we love others, when we serve and care, we hold. Holding doesn't provide lofty answers or intricate theology. It just offers presence and hands to share the weight of whatever burden we may be feeling. Holding isn't complicated or big. It is an intimate and small offering one of the simplest acts of humanity - babies hold, children hold. Children of God hold.
But I need things held, as well. We can forget that when we are holding others' things. Perhaps one of the great gifts Nina my horse gives me is that for all the holding I do in my life and ministry, when I ride, she reminds me that I can't hold everything all the time. So she says, "Hop up, Mom, and let me hold you for a while as we ride." She holds me in her own unique and elegant way. She holds me so when I need to hold something again, I'm ready.
What do I do as a priest?
I hold things.