Hang in there
Every year at Carrie Busey Elementary School, my classmates and I would take part in the Presidential Fitness Test. I don’t recall all the specifics (perhaps because I’ve tried to block it out of my memory), but here’s what I do remember. The Presidential Fitness Test consisted of a number of different measures, such as push-ups, the sit & reach, a timed one-mile run, and sit-ups. If you were able to achieve the predetermined standards, you received a certificate with the president’s signature on it.
I didn’t mind most of these physical activities. Except one: the dreaded chin-ups station. In the corner of our school gymnasium was a bar bolted into the wall. At the time, it seemed like it was miles off the ground. For the girls’ standards, it wasn’t actually a requirement to complete a single chin-up. You just simply had to hang on the bar for as long as you could.
I can remember being hoisted up, hands above my head, hanging from this bar, as each second felt like minutes. And as I kept adjusting my grip, trying to keep my hands from blistering, my gym teacher kept shouting, “Hang in there, Katy. Just keep hanging in there!”
I’m certain she meant these words to be encouraging and inspiring. That was the goal after all…to just keep hanging. But as my arms grew tired and my shoulders ached and the ground seemed perilously far away, what I really wanted in that moment was someone who would come over and help me down.
I don’t plan on doing any chin-ups any time soon. I’m pretty certain I couldn’t complete one even if I tried. But I think about all the people I encounter on a daily basis who are at the equivalent in their lives of hanging from a chin-up bar. Hearts aching and worn down and alone. And how often my response to them is a simple and good-intentioned “Hang in there.”
As Christian people, our best response to our struggling and hurting neighbors may have less to do with the words we think might be encouraging. And much more to do with our actions. Our willingness to stop what we’re doing and help them through this particularly challenging moment.
Throughout scripture, God repeatedly said, “Don’t fear. I’m with you. I’ll help you.” But when those promises didn’t seem to be enough comfort, God sent love & peace wrapped up in the form of a human body.
The Bible has plenty to say about us being the hands and feet of God. And much less to say about speaking on behalf of God. So the next time we’re inclined to say something comparable to “hang in there,” perhaps we should, instead, step closer and help them down.
–Katy Warren, associate pastor