“I cling to you; your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:8).
My fist is clenched, knuckles white, around a glass marble. I can feel the curve of my nails making indents like crescents on the palm of my hand. The tension rides up to my shoulders. I’m clinging to the marble as if my life depends on it, and somehow, in the strange logic of this nightmare, it does, because—
IF I LET GO OF THIS MARBLE, screams the thought that rips through my brain, I’M GOING TO FALL —
I am hanging off the edge of a skyscraper. It’s the generic kind with the skyline of New York City behind it, like something you’d see out of a Spider-Man movie as he battles his foes on the rooftops. My right hand is gripping the cement edge, fingers sweaty and beginning to give way. The lactic acid in my arm has stopped throbbing and begins to fade from feeling. And yet, in the strange logic of this nightmare, if I let go of the marble in my left hand, I will fall to my death. So I simply hang on, suspended by that thin thread of muscle in this vicious tug of gravity. My left hand dangles uselessly with its fingers clenched around that glass marble, as if my life depends on it, because at that moment, all I can think is that it does.
Then a hand reaches over the edge, and I look up from my fog of fear. In the middle of my panic, I can’t hear God’s voice, but His lips move as if to say — Take it. Kneeling down, leaning further over the edge, He gently beckons, take my hand.
All I have to do is to let go of the marble in my left hand, and grasp His. Even though it would make perfect sense to reach out to my Savior, I don’t. I can’t. I tell Him, “If I let go of this marble, I’m going to fall.” The hard kernel of glass against the skin of my palm is all I can think about. How it will shatter on the ground forty stories below me if I let go. And how I will follow after it if my fingers loosen their grip. I want to save myself — except I don’t know how, because I’m exhausted and in pain. I don’t know how, beyond holding on to that marble as if my life depended on it.
When I was a child, my father used to play a game with me, where he would close his fist tightly and ask me to pry his fingers open. I always took up the challenge, convinced that I would succeed. But in pitting the strength of a child against the grip of a full-grown man, the odds were always against my favor. I would dig my little fingers under his calloused palm and throw my body weight behind the enterprise. I never succeeded. Then I would challenge my father to do the same to my fingers, and much to my irritation, he would always win. I would walk away, sulking about how awful it felt to be overpowered, that my fingers could be pried open so uselessly. No matter how much I made sure to feel the curve of my nails making indents like crescents on the palm of my hand, holding on was never enough.
I came into this season of Lent fist clenched. There is a glass marble in my life — or perhaps several — that I’m hanging on to. I’m very, very tired, and joy these days seems like a stranger. When I prayed for peace and courage at the beginning of this tumultuous week, it was this vision of a marble and a skyscraper that God put on my heart. Usually, we don’t recognize that the logic of our nightmares makes no sense until we wake up. Yet, I’ve been living every waking hour of my life according to these fallacies.
This Lent, I am learning to open my fingers. I am learning to raise my hands and reach out to my God, even if it feels like I’m going to lose everything in an act of surrender. Even if the marble I’m gripping so tightly feels like everything that could ever matter. I’m beginning to realize that holding the marble in my hand is not going to save my life. Yet, God doesn’t hurry to try to pry open my fingers, the way my father did when I was a child. He simply holds my hands in His, and invites me to let go. I cling to Him, and He upholds me in his right hand. In the end — as it was and is and always shall be — my salvation lies in God and God alone.
What are you holding on to?
Sharmaine Koh is a senior at Yale majoring in History.