She was young, but she held eye contact like she had been walking this earth for centuries and knew that though dust might mar her vision, eyes wide open was the only way to face the world.
Her sister sat, resting elbows on the polished wooden table, hair swept back off her face and a silk scarf resting lightly over her shoulders. She held a secure silence as she considered the question of the girl who sat before her, younger than her own children, bolder than most.
“What do you have to say to a twenty-four year old today?”
Over fifty years of following Jesus tumbled through her mind like a spring rushing down the rocks on a mountainside. The stories of God’s power showing up and shaking out the cynics who had tried to box God into their comfort zones. The times church crumbled and the times it flourished. When God spoke in whispers, in shouts, in action, in scripture. The times God didn’t say anything. The decades of marriage, the hardest discipleship journey of any human. The years of leadership, vulnerable and unimpressive when standing in the mirror, yet used in ways that left Jesus smiling and his followers reeling.
What should she tell this generation, from all the hard-won pearls of wisdom she had collected along the road of laying down her life for a cause greater than herself, that will encourage them to keep following her same Jesus too?
“I want you to stand upon my shoulders.”
The words almost hovered in the air between the two women. No one moved for a moment, not wanting them to drop, as if wisdom were glass, to be caught, wrapped, cherished.
This was no sound-bite or lip-service to a poetic idea that seemed mystical or profound to say to the girl. This was a heart-felt conviction, this was a gift, and this would cost the woman in the silk scarf. She knew it.
For, to stand upon shoulders is to be held and grounded and supported by another. To stand upon shoulders is to have foundations that take the strain, whilst being given the ability to reach new heights and see from a different perspective. To stand upon shoulders is not to be passed a baton, where the pervious runner then slows down and stops as the receiver goes it alone. To stand upon shoulders is not to “be released”, like a bird from a cage who is finally free to fly independently.
To stand upon shoulders is to climb up the experience and strong tower of another, hoisted up further, supported continuously, strengthened by being together. Held; not held back, but held up.
Their eyes were glistening as the gravity of the statement settled over the sisters like a bear hug. It was meant to be like this. They were meant to sit together, decades apart and yet just the same, same family, same heart, same purpose. There was no generational divide across that table, quite the opposite; a bridge, a connection built because of the passed time between the two.
The girl eventually got up to leave, knowing that just to sit and listen to those older in faith and life would always be time well spent. And still that phrase was ringing in her ears, not one of release or ‘going it alone for this next generation’ but one of family commitment to live this together for the long haul.
“Stand upon my shoulders”.
Photo Credit: Rebecca Siegel