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‘And there’s a hand, my trusty friend’

God lifts us up when we think we can’t get up

By Donna Frischknecht Jackson | Presbyterians Today

Heavy snows bring down the trees along the writer’s path. But with a helping hand, they were made upright. Donna Frischknecht Jackson

The snow was wet and heavy, making it hard to shovel and even harder to trudge in. But trudged I did. In 2021, I committed to prayer walks no matter what the Vermont weather was, so I wasn’t going to let a “little” snow deter me from continuing this ritual into a new year. On went my boots and out the door I went. I challenged myself to climb a steep hill knowing my huffing and puffing would be rewarded by a breathtaking view. I was not disappointed. The valley below looked like a jewelry box filled with diamonds as the snow glistened. I continued up and over to the trail, where my walk hit a snag. Dozens of birch trees were bowed down from the weight of the snow, blocking my path. I had a choice: turn back or move forward. I chose the latter.

I ducked under and hopped over the trees lying prostrate to the ground, but I was tiring quickly. My walk had become both a physical and spiritual obstacle. I just couldn’t focus on God while focusing on not getting whacked in the face with an icy branch. It was then I had a thought. What if I helped these fallen trees? With my fuzzy mittens on, I grabbed hold of the smaller tree’s trunk and loosened the branches that were frozen to the ground. With a swoosh, the tree sprung up. I moved on to the next tree, then the next. I even tackled the larger trees, freeing them from their state of downtrodden-ness. And with each tree I freed, I began remembering the times when someone noticed me down for the count and how they didn’t ignore my dismal state. Rather, with an outstretched hand, they helped me back up.

The new year is just beginning, but it seems God’s beautiful Creation continues to be downtrodden. Everyone and everything seem to be weighed down by something. Recently, while waiting in the drugstore to receive my shingles vaccination, I took note of a woman sitting 6 feet from me. The mask she wore couldn’t mask the sadness in her eyes. I looked around and noticed so many shoppers wearing masks and couldn’t fathom that we have been living like this for two years now. Just then, I felt a paw on my knee. A man with a service dog had walked by, and his fur buddy had wandered over to me. I touched the paw and smiled.

It’s a tradition to sing “Auld Lang Syne” when the old year exits and a new one enters with revelers who are still awake at midnight, belting out something about old acquaintances being forgotten. But there’s a line to Robert Burns’ poem penned in 1788 that often goes unnoticed. It’s the one that goes, “And there’s a hand, my trusty friend, and give me a hand o’ thine.” I’m not sure if the Scottish bard was getting religious, but that line chokes me up as I remember there is indeed a hand that lifts us up when we think we have no strength — or will — to get up. It’s a hand that comforts us when scared, soothes us when agitated and cradles us when broken. There’s the hand of God, my trusty friends, inviting you to grab hold of it. And when you find yourself standing tall again, reach your hand out to another. For then will we “take a cup of kindness yet” that Burns speaks of.

Donna Frischknecht Jackson is the editor of Presbyterians Today.

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