WorshipWeb: Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

Hold On

By Robin Tanner

November 16, 2016

"Well, the only chains we can stand / Are the chains between hand and hand
Keep your eyes on the prize / Hold on"
—Adapted lyrics to “Gospel Plow,”* attributed to Alice Wine

The camera gazes up at a blue sky, where a trapeze artist, flying through the air, holds her arms out to be caught by the catcher (also on a trapeze)

Holding on does not come easy to me. As a teenager who left home and bounced around, I am talented at escaping. I can evade like the best of them. I can avoid people who speak truth that’s packaged in less-than-pretty paper. I can leave when the words are ones I do not like. I can hit the road when it gets real.

There are millions of reasons to head to Canada right now, but my Beloved: what was once necessary is a now mechanism of privilege. Leaving is a privilege that can kill — and loving does not let go.

For those with the privilege to escape, we are exactly the ones we have been waiting for, ones made for a time such as this, gifted with all that we need to hold on.

I am not moving to Canada. I am not building a blanket fort. I am not blaming disenfranchised voters for this election. I am not mandating the “proper peaceful” response.

Instead, for maybe the second time in my life, I am truly holding on.

Hold on: it’s a mantra for my white girl self. I’m keeping my eyes on the prize of a land where “we the people” is more than a broken promise of once and long ago. I’m going to show up. I’m going to make mistakes, and I’m going to show up again. I’ll hold on with the small safety pin attached to my lapel; hold on to listen for the story, the pain and promise beneath the labels; hold on into the night; hold on in the streets and during the Sunday service.

I am holding on, remembering a night in Charlotte not too long ago when, before my eyes, a police officer raised his baton to a young black man who spoke truth with arms raised. I am holding on, remembering the queer black leader as they faced the baton and did not waver. I am facing the 53% of white women who voted for the KKK-endorsed candidate.

I am loving the hell out of this country, hoping it is enough to hold on.

Beloved One, hold the pain and the fear, hold the dream and the fury, hold us as we hold one another. Call us into being with a love that does not let go.

*The song "Gospel Plow" is also known, in other forms, as "Hold On" and "Keep Your Hand on the Plow."

About the Author

Robin Tanner

Robin Tanner is a Unitarian Universalist minister, poet, and activist who serves as the Minister of Worship and Outreach at Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Summit, New Jersey.


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