“God dispenses gifts, not wages. None of us gets paid according to merit, for none of us comes close to satisfying God’s requirements for a perfect life. If paid on the basis of fairness, we would all end up in hell… In the bottom line realm of ungrace, some workers deserve more than others; in the realm of grace the word ‘deserve’ does not even apply.”
– Philip Yancey, emphasis mine –
– Perfect Gifts –
God is really good at filling open hands.
If faith is ” two empty hands held open to receive all of the Lord,” as Alan Redpath says, then what is it that we receive?
Most important, if we belong to Christ, the most glorious gift is Him. God with me, God with you, always.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”
– Romans 8:31-32, NKJV, emphasis mine –
So, “all of the Lord” encompasses not only His sparing us from wrath but also His freely giving us all things.
I’m coming to realize, like a bright dawn that slowly lifts out of the darkness, that open hands are not necessarily empty hands.
Augustine had something to say about this: “
God is always trying to give good things to us, but our hands are too full to receive them.”
This goes beyond a cotton-candy gospel and reveals that our sins are still clinging to us–or that we are clinging to them. Our self-will, our determination to hold on to our own ways, the control we crave–all of these show our fingernails-dug-in grasp on our idols.
That age-old quest, the prelude to the angelic fall–“I will be like God.”
Like God, able to hold on tight to things. Like God, controlling every detail. Like God–that power would feel so good, fill the empty places. We think so, anyway.
And so, even in our nice Christian wrapping, in our church-face facade, we bow before idols, wrapping our power-hungry hands around their feet.
Our hands are too full of trash to hold the good things.
In order to hold Him, to cradle the Best there is, we have to believe that He rewards the seeker. We have to trust that He is Who He says He is. We have to be awakened to the fact that our idols are coals burning us up even as we hold them tightly. We have to turn away in disgust at the filth we’ve been clasping fondly. Repent and believe. That He is. That He will reward you when you seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).
When we open our hands and release what we’re holding so tightly, our Father doesn’t strip anything away without giving us much more. This isn’t a health-and-wealth prosperity gospel or a follow-this-formula princess theology, as worldview teacher John Stonestreet calls it. This is God’s promise.
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”
– Matthew 16:25, NIV. emphasis mine –
When He awakens us and we see that He is a far greater treasure than anything else…
When our eyes open and we stare up into the face of a God who comes down to our level….
When we throw off all we call life for a Better Prize…
He strips off the sin, washes the guilt, pries our fingers off our idols, and then pours abundance into our open palms. He’s a God that blesses the cursing, gives gifts to the thieves, and ransoms the mockers. He’s a God that washes clean our pig-sty hearts and makes us hate the sin-wallows. He’s a God that tells you to let go.
Not because He doesn’t want you to have good things.
The truth is…you will never have good things if you always hold on to your things. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s words can penetrate our “God wants to make me miserable” fears:
“The right way to pray is to stretch out our hands and ask of One who we know has the heart of a Father.”
It’s faith again, girls. When we open hands, we have to keep stretching, keep unfolding, keep those fingers pried back. But the good new is that faith isn’t mustered up. You see, even faith is His gift to us.
And one step of faith gives birth to another. Stormie Omartian, a writer of women’s books on prayer, says,
“When we step out in that faith, God increases our faith. In other words, acting in faith begets more faith.…We have no idea what great things God wants to do through us if we would just stop out in faith when he asks us to” (The Power of a Praying Woman, page 232, emphasis mine).
Open hands are the only way, you see, to hold His gifts.
“God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.”
– Elizabeth Barrett Browning –
Open Hands are Brave Hands
When I was a little girl, I loved a book series about a girl stolen away by Vikings. I adored her fortitude and how her faith flourished in exile, as she became so much more than she ever could have by staying safe in the Irish hills.
When I read those books, one of her prayers thrilled me. It still is almost like a heartbeat to me:
“Give me a heart of courage.”
But now I see it’s not just my heart that needs a bravery boost. It’s my hands.
Only brave hands are strong enough to open.
Only brave hands can open and then receive God and all His gifts that He delights to shower.
And only brave hands can use those open fingers to reach out and grab another hand.
We can’t reach if our hands are balled into fists. We can’t receive anything. And we certainly can’t give. Closed hands reveal a closed heart. Whatever the reason for withdrawing, closed hands close off relationships.
Join me, will you? Join me in opening my hands from now on.
And those of you who are already working up New Year’s resolutions? Forget 2014 for this one. A year’s too small. Let’s make this the Life of Open Hands.
Open, Gift-filled, Brave, Blessed Hands.
The prying-back might hurt. But can’t you see how much it’s worth?
And it all starts with saying yes to Him, in this moment.
“Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise….
Take my hands, and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love….
Take myself, and I will be,
Ever, only, all for Thee.”
– Frances Havergal, emphasis mine –