EACH YEAR I TRAVEL with a specific word. Sometimes I choose it, but mostly it chooses me. As the previous year closes, the word stealthily walks up alongside me, and onward we go.
When I began this practice, I’d start the year thinking I knew what the word meant. I no longer think that. I am continually surprised by how one little word unfolds and the depths to which it goes.
This year I not only have a word but a question with which to journey. I didn’t ask for this. It came unbidden. Regardless, I now have one, and here we go: my word, my question and me.
My father was an insurance salesman with Allstate, and I grew up with their slogan, “You’re in good hands.” Penned in the 1950s, it was based on words a sales executive spoke to his wife, reassuring her that their child in need of medical attention was in good hands with their doctor.
The idea of being in good hands showed up for me in a recent dream. I was on an ocean liner along with a dozen or so babies, each with a caregiver. It was clear to me these children were journeying far from home to meet adoptive families. Fussy and fear-filled, the babes were restless. For some reason, the caregivers began bringing them to me. One by one, I took them in my arms and they quieted, each of them in turn, as if they knew they were in good hands.
My word of the year is “embark.” As in: on this large ship journeying to the unknown.
My question of the year comes from Jesus’ “do not worry” speech. After speaking of his Heavenly Father who tends the birds of the air and flowers of the field, Jesus turned to the crowd and asked: “Don’t you think he’ll attend to you?” (Matthew 6:30, Message).
This is the question the Spirit is now whispering in my ear every day.
And I currently hear it as this: Don’t you think you’re in good hands?
Jesus asked this question of people described in the passage as anxious, uneasy, worked up and worried. Not unlike the babes on the embarking boat. Not unlike me.
“Don’t you think he’ll attend to you?” It’s as if the Spirit holds me in her arms and I relax under her reassuring words, “Shh. Hush now. You’re in good hands.”
Truth is, like the babes on the boat, I get worked up and worried when I embark on something new. On any journey, large or small. I need this reminder, these whispered words of reassurance, that I am in good hands and not alone as I set sail to the unknown.
“Don’t you think he’ll attend to you?” Attend means to take care of. Be present. Assist, help, serve.
Jesus once told his disciples he was among them as “one who serves” (Luke 22:27). This phrase points to being an attendant or a host.
Our pastors have been circling around this revelation of Jesus for the past year. Jesus, among us as one who serves. Jesus, asking us, as he did Bartimaeus, “what do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51). Jesus, breaking the bread, passing the cup, bending and bowing to take us and tend us, one by precious one, in his strong, capable hands.
“Don’t you think he’ll attend to you?” If Bartimaeus was in the crowd that day, I think he would have yelled out a hearty yes, right alongside the lepers (Luke 17), the woman with the bleeding issue (Luke 8), and the Roman centurion whose servant was ill (Luke 7). How else would they have gathered up the courage to come and cry out as they did?
My response is not so hearty. In the presence of Jesus’ question, I find myself hesitant, fearful that the person in front of me will be the last one attended to before the door closes and the Holy One leaves for another town. God may just be tuckered out, and I feel reticent to risk the asking. I don’t want to be too much trouble.
Maybe that’s why the question is so patiently and persistently walking me home. “Don’t you think he’ll attend to you?”
God’s mouth to our ears: “Don’t panic. I’m with you. . . . I’m telling you, Don’t panic. I’m right here to help you” (Isaiah 41:10-13, Message).
We’re in good hands, you and me. “God at [our] service from crack of dawn” (Psalm 46:5, Message), with us wherever we go.