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Nearly ten years have passed since I witnessed this admittedly ordinary moment, yet every month or two, it comes to mind once again.
The bare tree branches provided a clear view that February morning. If he had looked up, the man in the baseball cap would have seen a college student with a scarf wrapped around her neck, hands in her pockets, momentarily frozen on the sidewalk.
But he never glanced my way. His focus was set, his gaze steady, his stance wide.
Twenty feet to my right, the man leaned over, each outstretched hand firmly holding onto chubby toddler fingers as the little girl practiced walking, slowly shuffling between his legs.
The child moved forward inch by inch, step by shaky step, but even from a distance, I could tell she was safe.
I was two months away from graduation and entirely unsure what life would look like in a matter of weeks. I had a hundred questions and very few answers, but something subtle shifted that morning. There wasn’t an audible voice, no burning bush, no whisper in the winter wind. But in the seconds that passed before I continued on my way to class, a verse came to mind:
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
The Message paraphrase says it this way: “Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.”
A smile spread across my face as I wrapped my jacket closer, struck by the idea that perhaps this was a very small picture of a much larger truth. Maybe, just maybe, it was a visual for the girl who happens to be a visual learner, a snapshot that would remain frozen in her memory, ready to be remembered when she felt alone, unsteady, or overwhelmed.
Suffice it to say, I started paying special attention to verses that talk about how we’re secure in God’s hands. It didn’t take long before the list began to grow, each one reiterating the promise of Isaiah 41.
In John 10, Jesus says that no one can snatch us from the Father’s hand. In a moment of reflection, the writer of Psalm 73 says, “My feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold… Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.” In Psalm 139, we’re assured that even in the deepest dark, God holds on.
Over and over, Scripture seemed to echo itself, doubling down on the promise: we are held secure. God will not let us go and never, not for a single moment, will we find ourselves walking alone.
But as we step into an unknown future . . .
As we walk toward change, walk through what we never saw coming, walk among the ashes of what was or even, perhaps, what will never be . . .
We can rest assured that one thing is absolutely certain: we do not walk alone.
Emmanuel, the God who named Himself “God With Us”, created the entire universe and then, in great humility, made Himself small enough to be held in human hands. The One who formed man from the dust of the ground became the God-man who bent down to write in the dirt, who broke bread and then broke open, arms spread wide and hands pierced even as they reached out. And even then, all the while, He was holding each and every one of us secure, perfectly keeping every promise that was made.
Time has ticked on, but the memory of that tiny wobbly toddler secure in the hands of her father resurfaces regularly. It’s still funny to me that something so ordinary, a moment that lasted no more than half a minute, continues to circle back a decade later. But now, when I feel alone, unsteady, or overwhelmed, I try to picture myself not as the college senior observing from a distance, but as the little girl looking up at the beautifully scarred hands holding mine.
In my imagination, just beyond the hands wrapped around mine, there’s a gentle smile, a little wink, and a kind voice that says, “I had you then and I hold you now. Come what may, I’ve got you.”
His gaze is steady; His grip is secure.
Step by shaky step, we are held all the way Home.
Never, not for one moment, will we find ourselves walking alone.
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