My son slides onto the piano bench and starts to play. Decades ago, I sat at the same piano and plunked out the same tune. The swinging rhythm rushes back to me now, familiar as a campfire song.
“He’s got the whole world in his hands, he’s got the whole world in his hands.”
Today’s news reports are too awful for the kids to hear. I turn off the radio and let the music fill the room instead. Each note feels like prayer in these weeks when I’m struggling to pray. Where is God in this pandemic? How can I explain what’s happening to my children? When will life go back to normal?
Each line of the song hangs in the air like an answer. Not the solution I want — the miraculous cure or the disappearance of the disease. But an answer all the same: The whole world is in God’s hands. This truth keeps me going, day after day.
“He’s got my brothers and my sisters in his hands.”
Last night, my family gathered for a video call. From across the country, my siblings and parents popped on the computer screen where I normally conference with colleagues. In our virtual family reunion, we laughed and lamented. We shared jokes and drinks. We made our dogs wave to each other across the miles. The ordinary moments we need during an extraordinary time.
When we signed off an hour later, I watched each face disappear. I wanted to reach out through the screen and hold them close. But I reminded my anxiety that they are in God’s hands, too.
“He’s got the teeny tiny babies in his hands.”
As I listen to my son play verse after verse, I sway in the kitchen with the baby in my arms. Born during the pandemic, our tiny boy will never know the world that came before. But he is new joy and fresh hope even now. He is in God’s hands, too.
After the piano falls silent, the song lingers in my head. Later that night, I reread words of faith that have carried me through fear and grief: “If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.”
The mystic Julian of Norwich wrote these words in her book “Revelations of Divine Love.” Fitting for our time, she lived during the Black Death. She, too, knew a world of suffering on a staggering level. Yet her faith sang out the same truth as the Gospel spiritual now on repeat in my living room.
We are always kept in that same precious love. He’s got the whole world in his hands.
What’s more, the hands that hold us are no strangers to sorrow. Jesus rose with wounds, the scourge of his suffering. His hands — still holy, still bleeding — were Easter proof and lasting truth.
Whatever comes next, we can comfort and console each other with refrains of love. Is it any wonder that in times of crisis, the old songs and ancient words are what carry us through?
Parenting during a pandemic means anxiety and uncertainty. No matter our children’s age, we want to protect them from the worst that life (and death) can bring.
But this time my children are the ones teaching me how to pray: to trust we will be carried and to believe we will be held.
He’s got you and me, sister. You and me, brother. The whole world in his hands.
Fanucci is a mother, writer and director of a project on vocation at the Collegeville Institute in Collegeville, Minnesota. She is the author of several books, including “Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting,” and blogs at www.motheringspirit.com.
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