Last year, sometime in December, I found myself standing at the kitchen sink with my hands in warm, soapy suds. And as I did my day-time ritual of washing and rinsing, my head was plowing through a mental list of intended goals for 2017.
- Continue weekly discipleship relationship
- Take a photography class
snackingbinge-ing after dinner
- Get involved in a Sunday school class/community group
- Continue exercising 4 times a week
- Read one book a month…or more
- Continue building relationships with those in my neighborhood
- Shutterfly memory books for each of the kids
- Write once a week
- Work through the Psalms this year
- Make more intentional time to sit and talk with my husband
But as fast as that list took form, the Lord spoke into my soul faster and louder.
Jessica, I want you to just keep your hands open and out.
I want you to keep your hands open, relinquishing the controlling grasp your flesh is inclined to desire, and I want your offered hands to stay out, no pulling back.
Watching the cars zip by the front of our brick, cape cod, I stood there in humbled silence. There was no mistaking His voice, there was no interpretation problem, and there was no misunderstanding. It was His voice, and it spoke a good and true word to His daughter’s soul.
Open and Out.
The two words swirled in my soul, piercing my heart.
He was right.
SO many times I extend my open hands, offering the Lord my time, my resources, my gifts, my energy, my hurts, my hard, my relationships, my conflicts, my empty places, my (insert whatever), but then I close them up. I offer my offering, but then when things get hard, or messy, or down-right scary – I curl up my hands and close them off. I grab for control. I close for safety. I retreat for comfort.
He was SO right.
Too many times I stand before the Lord with open and outstretched hands, only to close them and pull them back later. Because let’s be honest, offerings aren’t always easy and certainly not comfortable.
We offer to get involved in that ministry, but then things get hard. We offer to serve in that community, but then things get messy. We offer to open our homes to people in need, but then things get difficult. We offer the Lord those yucky and hurting places, but then things seem to get unjust. We offer the Lord our time, but then things get more time-consuming than we had anticipated. We offer to follow Him into the scary and unknown places in our culture, but then things get tense and heated.
We offer Him open and out-stretched hands but then the offering starts to bring pain, death, and change. And just as quickly as we were to extend our hands, we’re quickly tempted to close those hands in front of the altar of obedience and pull them from the altar of sacrifice.
The offering is hard.
So in 2017, I decided to follow the call and live the year with my hands open and out. And though I can’t say I’ve always done it perfectly, I can say (by His grace), I have extended those scared hands and trembling palms of mine more times than I thought possible.
Through the transition to a new church (January), through our first fostering experience (June), through the beginnings of full-day, 1st grade with our son (August), through the commitment to write for Hope is Hard (September), through my husband’s job search (November), and through the countless other moments and minutes when the offering was hard and the sacrifice hurt (ALL. YEAR. LONG.), I have continued to faithfully extend my hands even though I’ve been tempted to recoil my hands and withdraw my arms.
And as I’ve walked through this year, I have been continuously reminded of the faithful who have gone before us…living and loving with their hands open and out.
I imagine Noah had moments when he wanted to close his hands when the mockers came and the rains were missing. I imagine Abraham wanted to pull back His hands as the knife hovered above his beloved. I imagine Moses wanted to close those hands as the complainers grumbled and the wilderness wore on. I imagine Ruth wanted to withdraw her hands when the threshing was exhausting and a Kinsman-Redeemer was nowhere in sight. I imagine David wanted to pull back his hands as Saul hunted and threw his spears. I imagine Job wanted to close his hands as his children died and his sores wept. I imagine Paul wanted to pull back his hands as the chains rubbed and the crowd threatened.
And yet, the faithful have kept their hands open and out. They followed the calling of the Lord, and they faithfully persevered even though the winds blew and the waves rocked.
Open and out, their hands remained. Steady and committed, they kept their offering on the altar. Trusting and faithful, they looked toward the ONE who created their hands, and they kept them open and out.
And let us not forget…
In the garden, with outstretched hands and blood-soaked tears, the Lord Himself submitted to the Father’s will, obeying the call and drinking the cup–the greatest offering that EVER WAS and EVER WILL BE.
So as I head into this next year, I’m asking the Lord for two more words. And so far, I’m hearing this…
2018: Presence and Joy, Jessica.
And though I have no clue what awaits me in 2018, especially connected to these two words, I am starting by praying the following:
- Lord, help me to intentionally draw near to your presence, listening and being still.
- Help me be actively work to be present in the presence of others without distraction and without hurry.
- Help me deliberately look for and choose joy, especially in the mundane and hard moments of my days.
- Help me to consciously be a “joy-spreader” to those around me–in both my words and actions.
- And may you, Lord, “make known to me the path of life [because] in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11
Hoper, I don’t know what your year held or what next year will hold, but I pray you will make an intentional choice to live with your hands open and out, drawing near to His presence while relentlessly pursuing a joy that only He can give and only He can be… no matter what 2018 brings.