There’s been a lot going on lately. Lots of new faces and changes, long days and noisy nights. Beyond the business of a thick schedule, though, there’s lurked the busyness of a heavy heart. Lots of questions. Lots of drawn out silence. Lots of time without a lot of words. And in all that quiet, I’ve found myself continually circling the idea of open and closed hands and how we handle what God has given us.
I see it like this: God places in each of our hands a number of things. People and relationships, roles and responsibilities, talent, opportunities and places. These are the things that make up our current daily life. Sometimes we know exactly what to do with those things. It feels like they were made for us and it’s a joy just to have and care for them. We peer over our hands in delight and hold our hands flat, wanting to leave as much room and light as possible for them to flourish. We want to tend to them well and we’re grateful beyond grateful that God’s given them to us.
Of course, then, there are other times when we’re not totally sure why we’re holding what we’re holding. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense to us because these things — events, circumstances, changes, responsibilities — feel random, awkward or, even worse, heavy or painful. We want nothing more than to turn our hands over quickly and shake until they fall.
Surprisingly, what I’m learning is that sometimes the harder of the two to hold well are the things we really, really love.
You see, those things that we really, really love – well, sometimes we want them so much that we start curling our fists ever so slightly to keep them in place. After a while, our hands get a little tighter … and then a little tighter … until we eventually cover them completely. The gift, the relationship, the opportunity – they’re safer that way, we think.
But what I’ve learned is that when we start living with our hands closed tight around what God has given us — and what good thing has He not given us? —we stop letting God in. We give Him no room to move or even simply be. We push Him out, thinking we’re capable of controlling the situation and taking care of it on our own.
I remember after I moved home from graduate school I had my hands squeezed tight over the idea of being an adventurer. God had opened the doors for an incredible experience and fueled by that year and a half of living on my own in Paris, I was determined that my life would continue in the exact same shades of wide and deep and compelling. My hands curled around that idea and I hunched over it in an effort to keep it in place. Back home in Texas my life looked nothing like it had in graduate school and that scared me. All around me God was laying the groundwork for something new – new friends, new church community, a new job, new roots —but I couldn’t see any of it. My fists were curled too tightly.
In the weeks that followed, I started noticing that I couldn’t sing in church – or anywhere for that matter. As the weeks turned into months, tears would slide down my face as the music played in the dark Sanctuary. In closing my hand around what God had indeed put there — an amazing gift for a certain season — I also closed my heart to any further development or progress.
We all close our hands over plans and ideas, people and possibilities. Not because they’re bad, but because they’re good and because we want to keep them safe. I’ve curled my hands around people I love, trying to protect them from hardships, grief and loss. I’ve curled my hands around timetables, plans and expectations for my life, thinking I know what’s best. And every time I’ve done that — any of that — I’ve had to learn (and relearn and relearn) that I love to trust myself more than God. I’ve had to stop and recognize that I tend to think I know what’s best. And that, my friends, is dangerous territory.
“I am the good shepherd,” Jesus says, “and my sheep hear my voice, I know them and they follow me.”
“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,” David writes.
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you,” Peter tells us.
God wants our hands open, friends, not because He wants to snatch things away, but because He has so much to give.
Open hands, open hands, open hands – these days, that’s what I’m trying to live by. (And just so we’re clear, I have to remind myself every day, several times a day.) Open hands with calling, open hands with people, open hands with situations and projects and timing.
Open hands because He’s at work.
Open hands because He loves us.
Open hands because God is most careful with us.
Open hands, open hands, open hands.
Open, open hands.
Men’s and Women’s Summer Bible Studies
Looking for a place to learn about God or add community to your life? Sign up for a summer Bible study. Band of Brothers, our men’s group, is talking about how to live with joy and unity amidst the turmoil of our world in a study called “Get Over Yourself.” Women in the Word, our women’s group, will be learning about five unique names the Bible uses for Jesus and the promise each one holds in a study called “Worthy is the Name.” Use the links below to learn more about the studies and sign up.