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Take Thou my hand, O Father, and lead Thou me,
Until my journey endeth eternally.
Alone I will not wander one single day.
Be Thou my true companion and with me stay.

As we continue in the season of Lent, I’m finding the hymns I’ve been given have a common link in that they all address the idea of being alone. Words that remind us that while we live in community, we face our spiritual challenges alone; we face ourselves and our God alone. But, we can find solace in the companionship to be found when we walk towards whatever is our foundation. When we trust the goodness that results in standing on solid ground despite the sense of shakiness that life sometimes provides.

Though naught of Thy great power may move my soul,
With Thee through night and darkness I reach the goal.
Take, then, my hands, O Father, and lead Thou me,
Until my journey endeth eternally
.

This is an old German hymn that a few said brought tears whenever they heard it. It is a reminder of the examples of strength some saw in their parents’ and grandparents’ lives. It is a prayer for strength in our own lives. It is an acknowledgment that we cannot, and perhaps do not, walk alone – even if we feel we are, there is something beyond us that can hold our hands on the journey.

So nimm denn meine Hände und führe mich
Bis an mein selig Ende und ewiglich!
Ich kann allein nicht gehen, nicht einen Schritt;
Wo du wirst gehn und stehen, da nimm mich mit.

These words were written by the Baltic German poet Julie Katharina von Hausmann around 1864. Legend has it that she was engaged to a theology student on a mission whom she travelled to Africa to wed. Upon her arrival, she found he had died from a tropical fever. Hard to imagine this in our time of instant communication, but travel in 1864 with this news waiting must have been completely devastating and disorienting. She returned to Latvia after this tragedy and spent the remainder of her life working with the poor and writing poetry.   Her work was published in her lifetime under the condition that it be done anonymously and that all profits go to an orphanage in Hong Kong.

Again, here is an example of tremendous strength in the face of overwhelming tragedy. An example of what must have been an incredibly lonely journey resulting in such giving, such selflessness. An example of knowing to ask for a hand to help lead the way. We all face a variety of challenges; some shared, some private. Finding something, or someone, to hold a hand while we do so is a blessing. Being able to ask for that hand might just be a sign of deep understanding, humility and strength.  The hands we hold are a real treasure.  Our ability to see these hands, is a gift.