Sometimes We Just Need to be Held

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H_Kathy

Years ago, when one of my almost 16-year-old twins, Jonas, was about 18 months old and wanted either my husband or I to hold him, he would toddle up with his sweet chubby legs, raise both hands up toward us, and say “Hold you.”

He kept his hands reached toward us until we picked him up.

“Hold you.”

This lasted for a lot of years, and to this day all the kids in our family can imitate it perfectly. It’s also what we still say when we need some extra love.

“Hold you.”

Because sometimes we just need to be held.

In the flesh.

By a living, breathing person.

Here.

Now.

What I loved about Jonas’s “hold you” is that he knew exactly what he needed and asked for it. He didn’t sit and wait for us to notice. He didn’t hesitate or think he was stupid for asking. He didn’t assume we’d pick up on the cues. Instead, he did what kids do (and why they are the leaders in all-things-spiritual), and asked for what he wanted.

To be held.

Sometimes we just need to be held.

In the early years of my faith, much of what I was taught was centered on “me and Jesus” or “I just need Jesus” or “Jesus gives me everything I need” or “Go and sit on Jesus’ lap.” I’m not discounting the importance of deep and meaningful connection with God’s spirit and how healing and comforting that can be. But I do think this teaching wasn’t good for my soul because it caused me to believe the only way to find Jesus was in the quiet of my heart, in my prayer closet, or when I was spiritual enough to “get it.”

I kept straining to find that feeling, but it often remained elusive (and was always extremely tiring). My search for the feeling of being held only by Jesus sometimes left me empty, lonely, and frankly a little ashamed, like something was wrong with me for thinking Jesus wasn’t “enough” and actually needing people.

The message was that I’m not supposed to need people because God’s enough for me.

Um, sorry, I know it sounds terrible and some will get their hackles up when I say it, but I firmly believe this—God’s not always enough.

Sometimes we need people.

In the flesh.

A living, breathing person.

Here.

Now.

People are a reflection of God, and a big part of the Christian story that often gets ignored in the modern church is that Jesus left us as his representatives. The “just me and Jesus” thing isn’t actually very biblical at all.

Over the years as I began to ponder and experience what “incarnational” meant—”God, in the flesh” through meaningful, honest, raw, messy relationship with other people—I began to experience God’s healing in a new way that has brought so much greater freedom.

God is at work, in us and through us.

And there are a whole of people in this world in desperate need of being held.

But I’m not only talking about crawling up into Jesus’ lap and being held in a spiritual sense.

I’m talking about flesh and blood and spirit, all tangled up together in a real hug with a real person.

Where we are held.

Where skin touches skin.

Where some weird and beautiful and unexplainable security is passed from one person to another in all the right ways.

Where we experience a sense of God’s love in ways we can’t even put words to.

That isn’t something just physical. It is deeply spiritual, too.

A few years ago I heard about “cuddle therapy” businesses where people can pay money to be held in a nonsexual way, and experience the healing that comes from it.

As followers of Jesus and cultivators of the kingdom here on earth, I think “being held” should be offered for free. People shouldn’t have to pay for it. People shouldn’t have to be starved for it. People shouldn’t have to feel guilty for wanting it. People shouldn’t question their spiritual dedication for needing it.

We need to acknowledge that sometimes we just need to be held.

In the flesh.

By a living, breathing person.

Here.

Now.

I know men and women at The Refuge who, if they didn’t show up in community to get a hug, would go weeks and months and possibly years without being touched.

This is one of the reasons I am always ranting and raving about the importance of in-the-flesh community. We don’t need more places to go sing songs, listen to a pastor talk, and leave lonely and fragmented.

We need tangible places and safe spaces to be held.

The deep loneliness in this world is so pervasive. The longing to be held so great. The desire to feel human connection so real.

This past week my husband and I witnessed a fatal motorcycle accident right across the street from our house where two people immediately died. It was so traumatizing, and even though I’ve been crying out to God, I have also definitely needed the true-blue-here-now hugs from my friends and family, where I can be held.

Where I don’t just imagine God’s touch but actually feel God’s touch.

Some of you might need that right now in a tangible way and feel guilty for wanting and needing to be held. I hope you can let the guilt go and consider asking a safe person for it—”hold you.”

And some of you might be able to offer that right now to someone else. To be a caring presence, a secure touch in a way another person needs. It’s a beautiful and sacred gift.

SheLoves sisters, here’s to holding and being held.

It’s brave.

It’s vulnerable.

It’s God at work here and now—through us and to us.

______________

Image credit: Maria Grazia Montagnari

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Kathy Escobar
Kathy Escobar co-pastors The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver. A trained spiritual director, speaker, and advocate, she also blogs regularly about life and faith at kathyescobar.com and is the author of Faith Shift and Down We Go—Living out the Wild Ways of Jesus. A mom of 5 young adults and teens, she is married to Jose and lives in Arvada, Colorado.
Kathy Escobar

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