“I Hold, I Am Held”

July 16, 2020

Fifty years ago this evening I sat on the grass outside a college dorm and read through Romans 5, and I became a Christian. I remember three years later standing on the terrace of an uncle’s Manhattan apartment and sharing my faith in the Lord Jesus with him and his business partner. Their reaction was that I was too young to be so certain in what I believed.

It’s now been fifty years, and I’m still here believing. I keep holding on to Him, because He has held on to me.

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”
John 10:27–29

My pastor, Mike Braun, frequently quoted the motto of Spurgeon’s College, Et Teneo, Et Teneor: I hold, I am held. It’s thought that Spurgeon took the motto from the frontispieces of Dora Greenwell’s books of poetry. One of her poems became the hymn, “I Am Not Skilled To Understand.”

I am not skilled to understand
What God has willed, what God has planned;
I only know that at His right hand
Is One who is my Savior!

I take Him at His word indeed:
“Christ died for sinners,” this I read;
For in my heart I find a need
Of Him to be my Savior!

That He should leave his place on high
And come for sinful man to die,
You count it strange? So once did I,
Before I knew my Savior!

And oh, that He fulfilled may see
The travail of His soul in me,
And with His work contented be,
As I with my dear Savior!

Yes, living, dying, let me bring
My strength, my solace from this spring;
That He who lives to be my King
Once died to be my Savior.

So many times I have not understood God’s will or His plans, yet in times of storm, God kept me lashed down and held tight by His Word so I wouldn’t be swept overboard into the sea; in times of doubt, He reminded me that I could trust Him because He had been willing to die for me, and in times of feeling useless or unwanted, He comforted me that I could not always see His work in me or through me—in all these times, and after all this time, I still say my strength, my solace is from this spring: that He who lives to be my King, once died to be my Savior.

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”
John 7:37–38

And for those of you who do not know Him:

“Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters;
And you who have no money come, buy and eat.
Come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without cost.”
Seek the Lord while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the Lord,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
Isaiah 55:1, 6–7

If you want to know more details of that summer of 1970 and of that summer’s night, you can find them here: My Witness.


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Image from Et Teneo, Et Teneor – holding and held… by Brian Harris.
Sources: Spurgeon’s College: Our History, I Am Not Skilled to Understand by Robert Cottrell, Dora Greenwell.

©2020 I. N. Carpenter