If you’re going to live with your hands wide open to catch whatever God chooses to put into them, you’re bound to occasionally end up with a few things you’d rather not be holding.
Among the suspicious and somewhat dubious things I currently find in my hands:
- hard news for a good friend regarding the truth about a person she is in relationship with
- a heart that hurts from repeated rejection
- being in a unique position to help a friend, and her not wanting the help
It kind of feels like I set out my stocking on Christmas Eve expecting sweet treats and small treasures, and woke up to find a lump of coal….or two…..or three.
When I first started doing this whole eucharisteo thing, I had this image of me standing with my hands open, ready to receive whatever God handed me. Then me closing my hands, taking the gift as my own and figuring out what to do with it. Just as I’d find a place in my home for a new painting, or a place in my wardrobe for a new scarf, I’d figure out where to put those gifts from God.
But I’m starting to think that’s not the way it’s supposed to work.
That image is changing, and while I’m still standing there with my hands open, and I’m still receiving, and I’m still saying, “Thank You” (well, sometimes I’m actually saying, “Ummm…..okay…….thanks….I think….”), but I’m not actually closing my hands to claim the gift as my own.
I’m starting to think that I’m supposed to keep my hands open.
That even though the gift has been given to me, it doesn’t belong to me. I don’t own it. And I don’t get to decide what to do with it. God puts these things into my hands for a bigger purpose.
True, usually these suspect gifts involve my own refinement. Also true, they often involve someone else’s. And if I simply close my hands and accept these things as my own, then I rob the other person of their portion. And on some level, I’m accountable for what I’ve kept from her.
‘So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them the warning from me. If I say to the wicked, “O wicked one, you shall surely die,” and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.’
Oh, I know I’m no Old Testament Prophet with weighty words of salvation or warnings of destruction to deliver, but the principle is the same, yes?
I am accountable for these things in my hands.
I owe it to these other people in my life to speak truth in love, even though it’s unwelcome. To show my wounds to those who reject me, even though it’s embarrassing. To continue to offer help, even though it will be misunderstood.
This choosing righteousness instead of comfort is risky and fearful business. I expect to have losses, maybe even grave losses. How does one find the courage to venture forth anyway, in spite of the imminent losses ahead? It’s easy to tell myself, as if I was some shepherd in a field, “Fear not!” But how does one learn to not give weight to the fears?
Last night I was re-reading a favorite poem, and this line resonated in my heart.
Fear wist not to evade, as Love wist to pursue.
Fear is oppressive and has apparent weight. It can’t just be removed. It has to be replaced. And it will only be replaced by something of greater weight. Love.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.
1 John 4:18a
These things in my hands are so heavy, the weight of them bows me forward, bends me low. And I think it’s the fear that is weighing so heavily in my hands, pulling me down. But actually when I lift the corner on that fear to peek underneath, I find that the weight isn’t in the fear. The weight lies underneath the fear. It’s the love.
So, because the weight of my love is greater than my fear of losing a friend, I share the truth about this person who has deceived my friend. Because the weight of my love is greater than my fear of appearing foolish, I show my heart’s wounds to those who have hurt me. And because the weight of my love is greater than my fear of being rejected and used, I continue to offer gifts to my hurting friend.
These things I’m holding, the ones I’ve been eyeing contemptuously and with bitter complaint, I begin to see that they’re not so ugly. The scales on my eyes blur my vision at first; their appearance twists and warps. I can’t see their true nature, the essence of what they are. These gifts that I looked upon skeptically, are opportunities to share love.
They may look like fear, just as the shepherds looked at an angel bringing Good News–the very best news–and only saw fear. But these things God has placed into my hands, into my accountability and care, to be shared with others, are pure love.