Holding Up One’s End of Things

by Christine Sine
Screen Shot 2023 04 26 at 10.30.21 AM

by Laurie Klein

We will shout for joy when you are victorious
and will lift up our banners in the name of our God.
Psalm 20:5

Wallpaper the basement ceiling—why not? 

One rainy weekend my husband, Bill, helped me tackle what would prove to be a prolonged, mostly upper body undertaking. Good thing we were young.

Each pre-pasted strip, duly soaked and folded to mingle adhesive, would extend thirteen feet. Soon, leaves of ivy like green stars would run the length of our hall. 

Taller than I, Bill hoisted the soggy weight as I mounted a ladder to anchor the first portion overhead. I would ensure the bond while he squeegeed the next section. I envisioned teamwork deft as a working inchworm. 

Until my section curled. Then buckled. Gamely, I pressed back, battling gravity. My balance teetered. And what was that sucking sound?

I craned my neck just as the bond . . . in slow motion . . . gave way, then shlooped, molding itself to my face. 

“Start over,” Bill called. “But hurry—before it tears!” 

Yanking my hair free, I mashed that clammy banner flush to the corner. Does paste double as conditioner? 

By now our arms and necks ached from being thrust upward. Think human flying buttress. 

Oh no. Bill’s section belly flopped. 

Stretch, pant, reposition and smooth those air bubbles flat—it was a losing battle-in-progress. We needed more arms. 

Solomon once said, “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken” (Ec. 4:12, NLT). 

Hindsight, of course, can’t resist comparisons. Consider with me for a moment that ancient Mideast battle, at Rephidim, when the Amalekites attack the army of Israel. 

Moses straddles the hill, hoisting his staff like a banner of wood. 

Now watch the sun as it arcs overhead. See those raised, 80-year-old arms quaver. Nephew Hur and brother Aaron hasten alongside to help, heaving a rock into place for their kinsman. To keep Moses upright, do they brace their elbows on knees? As long as Moses keeps the staff raised, Israel prevails; every time his grip flags, the staff sags, and the enemy gains ground. 

How did that three-man tableau endure?

Today, we can better understand and explain the body mechanics involved in raising the arms. A massage therapist I know describes the historic, geriatric effort of Moses this way: “a prolonged isometric exercise—akin to torture, even with help.” 

Under extreme duress, muscular as well as nervous systems would have neared collapse amid blood pressure spikes, exposure, perhaps gradual dehydration. Joints, collar bones, shoulder blades, ribcage, arm bones and numerous muscle groups had to coordinate in complex ways. That effort, sustained until sunset, would have proved ruinous. 

As many a cinematic hero quips, “That’s gonna leave a mark.”

Post-victory, what of the aftermath? “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered . . .’” (Ex.17:14).

As if they’d forget. Would the poor man’s fingers even unclasp? 

In addition, “Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my banner. He said, ‘Because hands were lifted up to the Lord’” (Ex. 17:15-16a).

I don’t recall praying over that ivy wallpaper thrust-and-tussled onto our ceiling; I do recall solidarity during a daunting task. 

I can almost hear Moses speaking through St. Paul’s prayer: “Help these . . . who have contended at my side in the cause . . .” and later, “Stand firm in the Lord, dear friends” (Phil. 4:3).

God’s power works for us even as it circulates in and through us, the body of Christ, “joined and held together by every supporting ligament that grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

Scale doesn’t matter. Solidarity does. In circumstances dire as war or fatiguing as home improvements, exerting mutual effort bonds us. 

There will be schloops. Gravity. Gluey hair days. Moments of tearing, spasms of laughter. 

Upheld in our weakness by God’s might, we hold up over time. Together, we can endure unexpected demands on our strength. Perhaps every outreach (and up-reach) throbs with a pulse vital as blood, sluicing through veins toward—and within—each extremity . . .

. . . then homing back, once again, to the heart.

Screen Shot 2023 05 02 at 10.24.05 AM

Ceiling photo by Laurie Klein

Read more about the body’s ingenious means of raising limbs and the intricate choreography involved. 

Featured photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash.

IMG 1347Digging Deeper: The Art of Contemplative Gardening

“My healing garden inspired by Digging Deeper has been a comfort to me in this time of transition.” – M

Christine Sine’s latest book is packed full of contemplative wisdom and inspiration for creating your own meditative focus.  Click for more details!


You may also like

Leave a Comment