“Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.”
― Corrie ten Boom ―
Even Christians do it.
Some call it “snapping shut to grace,” the way pain and sin curl our hands into unbreakable fists of control (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts).
Toddlers do it, tightening hands until faces redden and screams peal for their way.
Angry people do it, when a leering face just beckons for that balled fist to take its best shot.
And fear–fear just constricts all of a person, doubling them until their curled-up body looks nearly ready to hide in the safety of a womb again. A vulnerable fetal position can quickly become the default position.
And I do it. Fearful, perhaps. Controlling, yes. Angry even, sometimes.
Yet, this week, my mind keeps drifting back to two ideas.
1. Unfurling Fingers
“I know not what He is about to do with me, but I have given myself entirely into His hands.”
– Catherine Booth –
First, that I must open my hands to Jesus. It’s hard, even in stillness, to be brave enough to open my fist and bare them to the cold air and expose them in vulnerability.
It seems that He asks to see what is in my grasp. There’s so much. Future. Dreams. People I care about. Ideas I don’t want stolen. Hopes I fear will be broken.
His prompting has continued for years. It still persists, my Savior’s call to unburden and release and open my hands. He took my wicked soul and made it new. But now I clench old again. He speaks.
So I uncurl my fingers.
It hurts a little. They’ve clenched too long. They’re stiff and a little unaccustomed to bending at His command. My fingers are numb and cold. I wonder, with a heart bounding, whether I’ve made a mistake.
Yesterday, I opened my hands again.
It’s something I’ve had to do a lot.
My journal tells the story, from a few months ago:
“My heart seems to be slamming on the brakes.
I am so full, so full–and my tether seems to be flying, coil upon coil.
Because I can’t keep focus for two minutes straight.
I don’t seem to be able to breathe without my eyes and heart going back.
And my eyes fill and heart clenches. And I fall again. O God, how many times today can I be laid out?
How many times, how thin can I stretch from something I’m giving over to You every minute it seems and taking back with more longing every other minute?”
What do I need to do? Yes, lay open my hands again. Hannah Whitall Smith has something to say about this:
“What you need to do, is to put your will over completely into the hands of your Lord, surrendering to Him the entire control of it. Say, “Yes, Lord, YES!” to everything, and trust Him to work in you to will, as to bring your whole wishes and affections into conformity with His own sweet, and lovable, and most lovely will.”
I’ve found that saying yes is not a one-time prayer.
It’s a way to live. More than that, in the hardest moments of surrender I have ever faced, I’ve found that it is a way to breathe.
When your heart is about torn in half, sometimes all you can do is breathe yes. “Yes Lord, Your will and not mine. Yes Lord, whatever the cost. Help me give over more. Yes Lord, I believe. Help me believe more. Yes Lord, I still love You. Help me love You more.”
The storm eventually drips and drains away. Wreckage strews your life in the aftermath. Things are blown a bit askew. You can hardly hope that you’ll ever be able to walk straight up again, after so many hours of leaning into a beating wind.
But it all fades. The pain of one moment or the dull throb of grasping at something that vanishes into vapor. When the ache seeps less and less, one things still remains. God was there with you. And in that hour you learned how desperately you needed Him to be there. Even more, you caught a glimpse of how much you need Him to carry you all the way through this life.
Trials that make us want to clench our fists can be one of two things. They are the tormenters that incapacitate us, or they are the teachers that show us how much our God can do. The question: Will we lay ourselves open, or close up tight and shrink from His touch?
“I have held many things in my hands, and have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.” — Martin Luther
For those of you who really paid attention, though, I did say there were two things I’ve been pondering. Opening hands, yes. But what more?
Will open hands cradle only air?
You see, God is really good at filling open hands.
How He does that will have to wait until “In These Hands, Part 2.” But first, next week we’ll talk about the Christ who makes Christmas an all-year celebration. And I, for one, can hardly wait for that.
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind….”
– Romans 12: 1-2a, NASB, emphasis mine –