My son was only two at the time, and we were walking along a busy street to the post office. As usual, I was holding his hand.
We had not gone far before he began to tug his hand loose from mine. He did this several times. On each occasion I took hold of his hand again, explaining that I had to hold onto him to keep him safe. But he did not perceive any danger and obviously felt that I was simply restricting him. He wanted to be free.
Once more he withdrew his hand from mine, and once more I reached out for it. But before I could catch hold, he clasped his fugitive hand in his free hand. He looked up at me, raised his arms to show me that he was holding his right hand with his left, and said confidently, “Hand, see?” He thought that if his hand had to be held, he could do it as well as anyone else.
Albeit in a charming way, what my small son did impulsively and passingly reminds me of what mankind does deliberately and persistently. In politics, science, philosophy, morality and art, Man is trying to hold his own hand. And not just mankind collectively, but men and women individually want to go it alone in their pursuit of employment, enjoyment, worship and relationship.
We Christians, too, are repeatedly guilty of trying to make our own way. Jeremiah’s prayer needs to be ours also: “I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps. Correct me, O Lord …” (10:23-24).
When the Son redeemed us the Father brought us into his family: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God”(1 John 3:1). And to confirm our adoption, he “sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Galatians 4:6). So then, God is our great Father: we are his little children. Our wellbeing as we walk through life lies in the grip of his hand. When with the Spirit’s help we hold our Father’s hand, he both directs our steps and stops us from falling when we stumble.
Thankfully, it is not our faithfulness in reaching up to God but his faithfulness in reaching down to us that ensures our safety. He keeps a grip on the reluctant hand. Hence David could say, “Whither shall I go from your Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from your presence? … If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:7-10).