On July 15, I wrote this:
“Here's a prayer I can relate to today.
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.
And what you want to give me is love,
unconditional, everlasting love.
--from "With Open Hands" by Henri Nouwen”
That was July 15. This is Friday, August 12.
It’s funny, I knew that I was holding onto something, but I didn’t even know what it was. While I held onto it, it seemed huge. When I let go of it, it became small. What is “it”? I can’t say right now, but there is more to come. So much more. And, as time goes on, you will find out specifically what “it” is.
For now, just let it be noted: This day, Friday August 12, marks the day I opened my hands and let go. This was a day marked with gut-wrenching sadness and death. We sat in our room and cried long and hard together, surrounded by the love of friends, but dying all the same. And in that death, I have found life again.
I know that who I am is not equivalent to the sum of the things to which I hold. Stripped, I have learned afresh that I am God’s precious child and that God has singled me out and equipped me to preach the gospel. And nothing in all the world can take that from me. I have been holding on to things like my house and my car and my church and my friends and…the list goes on. You can take all of those things away from me, but nothing will change the fact that I am His child.
And I can see that those things are not my own, anyway. They are God’s. He has given them to me. They are a gift. Before, I treated them as if they were things to which I was inarguably entitled. So, when I felt like God was taking those things from me, I became frustrated and angry.
But, then I realized that God was not “taking them” from me. He was just asking me with His loving, gentle heart and voice to give them to Him. Far from “taking”, God was “entreating.”
These things are not “mine”. They are like a ball that God throws to me. He tosses it in my direction, hoping that I will be like a child and throw it back to Him so we can play some more. On Friday August 12 I let go of the ball and threw it back to God after holding onto it for a while. And, when I threw it back to Him, I saw God smile and weep. Yes, God’s Spirit laughed and sighed, even as I felt joy and sorrow co-mingled in my soul.
And, surprise, surprise. God is not simply “throwing the ball” back to me. He has changed the ball altogether. We are playing a new game (a new game, that is, provided I throw the new ball back to Him. God, give me the strength to keep throwing the ball back to You, so we can continue to play).
God has planted a new seed in the country of my soul, in the soil of adversity. The water from our eyes nourish it. It will grow into something beautiful, for the light of hope and faith will cause it to grow in its own time.
That reminds me of a special text: Psalm 126:5-6. “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.”
So, now I have a new prayer for a new day:
Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us
And establish Thou the work of our hands.
Establish Thou the work of our hands.