When I was a young mother and my children very small, I carried them on my right hip. This went on long after they were able to walk by themselves, and so often that now – all these many years later – that hip has a tendency to jut out a bit when I am standing still. The youngest child in particular, I carried for a long time.
“Hold me up?” she would say in a tiny rasp, her small arms stretched upward. In times of particular urgency, she would stand tiptoe for extra height and open and close her tiny hands rapidly, like the motions to the nursery rhyme about all the little stars, twinkling. Of course I would pick her up…what else is a mother to do? Her gesture acknowledged that she was small…that she wanted a better view of her world.
Fast forward a dozen years or so. This little girl is in her teens, nearly grown –and trying to figure out who she is meant to be. And I, as her mother, am on a similar journey to find purpose, I suppose you could say. Of particular fascination on this leg of the trip is the fairly recent tendency I’ve developed to be more open during worship at church. Demonstrative, actually. With the lights dimmed during service, praise music hammering with invitation to God to be present with us, in us…first come the tears. And then the hands.
I did not grow up a “hands-raiser”, or a “tongue-talker”. I was raised swaddled in a quilt of various Bible-belt denominations, Baptist and Methodist chief amongst. Shouting was for cheering at football games, “amen” was for saying grace at dinner, and hand-raising for students who had a question for the school teacher. To shout in church was to call yourself out as a “Penty-costal”, to clap out of time was to call attention to yourself, and calling attention to yourself made you that thing which to was to be avoided in order to self-preserve: vulnerability.
But now, not caring who was witness to my worship, I wonder why? Why when falling to my emotional knees, did I try to stifle raising my arms? Why did I question my own motives for worshiping in such a manner?
Choking with tears, I remembered my baby daughter’s pleas with outstretched arms. And the urgency, in times she felt the most overwhelmed. Or restless. Or too weary to walk. Was she raising her hands up to me in order to receive? Surely, yes. But also because I was so much taller than she, my vantage point offering an entirely different view. The action of lifting her tiny arms to me made her vulnerable.
The first time I raised my hands to God, I was vulnerable, too. But there is wild, unexpected abandon in vulnerability.
“Pick me up so I can see, Daddy!” is what my spirit says, in the most raw and relinquishing of times – when I feel smallest with no need to self-preserve. “Carry me”. Certainly, a request made to receive his lifting-out, but also in the purest form of worship….the kind in which my spirit calls the shots, and my body must obey.
And He always, always picks me up.
What else is a Father to do?