Holding on for life

Posing with my Valentine, Bill.

Family knows it, I admit it. Sometimes, out of nowhere, the brat in me comes out. It’s easy to downplay (“Feeling a tad feisty today”), but truth be known, this side is ugly. Thankfully, though, my patient Valentine Bill hangs in there, loving me despite the flaws. Yesterday—at church, mind you—Brat met Patience for a classic showdown.

Thinking back, why the stand-off? Point is, I was ticked and church was starting. So there we sat, not speaking. Him, puzzled at the sudden cold shoulder. Me, wondering how to endure the next hour. Have you ever tried praising and praying during the silent treatment? It’s not fun. And come to think of it, not exactly scriptural.

Truce attempt #1: As the choir sang, Bill scooted close—really close—and grabbed my hand, placing it firmly in his. Please note that he held my hand, not the other way around. Intentionally (Not proud of this) I kept mine limp, unresponsive to the gesture. Nice try, Billy Boy. Not buying what you’re selling.

Truce attempt #2: As we were asked to prayerfully reflect (“Really, Pastor? You’ve GOT to be kidding”), Bill began the familiar hand squeeze. We’ve done this for years, three slow, deliberate pumps, our little code for three little words: “I love you.” Hmm. What exactly are you selling, Mr. Bill? Might be interested. Might be.”

Okay, I caved. What brat, no matter how resistant, could ignore the tri-squeeze approach? This girl couldn’t. Especially when it was an Anti-Brat, Tough Love Vow: “I love you, Ava Sturgeon, even when you’re not lovable. I love you, Ava Sturgeon, even if you won’t talk to me. No matter what, I’m holding on tight. We’re in a death grip, girl, for life.”

He’s special, this guy who chose me for better or worse. With a grateful heart I offered four hand squeezes, the return message for “I love you, too.” Then some extra squeezes for good measure—exclamation points, you know.)

As much as Bill Sturgeon loves me, though, my Heavenly Father loves me more. Way, way more. When I was eight, God chose me to be His daughter, during good days and bad. He promised to stick close, no matter what. He vowed to grip me tightly—not the other way around. No one, He whispered, could snatch me away. God and Ava. Ava and God. I believed Him. Many years later, I’m glad I did.

So on this Valentine’s Day, I’m thinking of Beautiful Hands with nail scars. Divine Hands that guide my future. And Strong Hands that never let go—even when mine aren’t so lovely.

Do your own hands know the grip of never-ending love? Are they squeezing back “I love you, too?” I hope so. ‘Cause there’s nothing more fulfilling than a two-way vow. He’s ready, this forgiving and Holy God, to scoop you up tenderly. Come as you are, good day or bad. Then stay awhile, forever in fact, as He holds onto you for life.


“[Jesus said], My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”

John 10:27-29


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