When my grandmother, Eva Mae, would call me, she would first ask a question. “You yet holdin’ on?” 

She was making sure I was keeping the faith, that I had not let go of my convictions. Most days, I wish I could reach for hers.

While in college, she sent letters and made regular phone calls. She never visited the campus at Buffalo State College, but this one question has stayed with me. 

She asked me the question before inquiries into college adjustments or class assignments, roommate conflicts or graduation requirements. And I knew what she meant as she asked it every single time we spoke.  

She was asking me if I still believed in Jesus “as my personal Lord and Savior.” She wanted to know right then if I had let go of the faith that she had handed to me along with the notepad for notetaking and a peppermint for safekeeping during church services. 

To be sure, this was not some kind of familial pressure, but it was a pressing matter of eternal proportions in her mind. She had passed down a history and a heritage. Her faith was her most prized possession.

She had, in fact, handed me a baton and wanted to ensure that I was continuing to run with it. She wanted to be certain I was carrying the gospel message.

And my grandmother didn’t assume because of our relational proximity that I was still kin to Christ. She would’ve agreed with Dallas Willard, “We don’t believe something by merely saying we believe it.” No, she needed to know where my hands were. 

“You yet holding on?” I can imagine her leaning in, pressing her ear closer to the phone. Thousands of miles away, that question made me feel like the child who sat next to her on so many sweet Sunday mornings. 

“You yet holding on?” That question is one I ask myself now that time has passed and the silly fights of childhood have been replaced with the internal conflicts of adulthood.  

How do I hold on? How do I not lose a grip on my belief in Jesus? What would cause him to slip from my fingers?

How tight should my grip be? What was I unable to squeeze in because of my commitments to the church? What had I missed out on?

“You yet holding on?” 

It is the question I will likely ask for the rest of my life and how I will gauge any possible progress as a Jesus follower. 

These days, I hear it as the question for almost everything. How am I holding on amidst rising food and housing costs and the ocean’s tide, evidence of economic and ecological instability? How am I holding on after things fall apart, life plans fall through and I end up flat on my face?

A good question to live by, there is often a movement of the moment to attach ourselves to. Either passively or for popularity’s sake, we put our hands in for new and shiny projects that pull us away from our unique callings. To that, I say, “Hold on. Not so fast.”

It would be easy for me to let go of the faith, rituals and traditions that Sister Eva Mae held so dear. But I have long been suspicious of the latest and greatest idea. I like to give it time.

Perhaps, it is because of all I thought was certain in the world. Unfortunately, you don’t have to have lived long to see the imbalances of justice, power, wealth and material resources. Time magazine defined an entire decade of my young adult life as “the decade from hell.”

To be sure, my faith is less an act of will and more a testament to being kept by Old Faithful. I’m not holding on as much as I am being held and that realization has been most comforting.

I’m not keeping the faith. The faith is keeping me. This awareness is something I hold onto when life no doubt sends me adrift.

 

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