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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Hand in hand

That's how to walk through the woods at night and through life

When I was a counselor at a Lutheran summer camp, I invested in a soft carrying case for my guitar. After the evening campfire had been reduced to a rising column of smoke, I could slide my steel-string, acoustic Fender into the sleek black nylon case, zip it up and sling it over my right shoulder for the hike back to the cabin.

In the same way, I thrust my camp-issued green backpack over my left shoulder. This piece of canvas held essentials such as a canteen full of water, matches, songbook, Bible, assorted asthma inhalers dutifully labeled and nine flashlights — one each for my eight little charges and me.

The importance of this balancing act — guitar, right shoulder and backpack, left — was one all counselors understood. We strategically positioned our heavy loads so our hands were free. It's prudent to have a free hand to hold a flashlight, shield your face from a low-hanging branch or to clear a newly spun spiderweb from the path.

But our hands were freed for another purpose — to clasp the hands of our eager, affectionate campers. Depending on the age of the children, it was possible to fit two miniature hands in my one, at once accommodating half of my group. These four would then lend their free hands to the others in the troop, and we would all be connected for the walk home. No matter how awkward this arrangement was, connectedness is what mattered most.

God must have perfected balancing burdensome loads long ago. Although slung over his shoulders may be war, terror, loneliness, hunger, pain and, alternately, the prayers of the faithful, songs, celebrations and creation, God manages to leave his hands free to hold ours when we bound around, eagerly seeking the firm grip of our Father's life-giving love.

It's good to know that I'm always able to reach out to God, knowing his hand will be waiting for mine to help me navigate the paths of life.


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