Triple-Dog Dares

I had no idea how full my hands were.

Yet in the course of a year, as empty as they’ve become, I take for granted how much they still hold. Because truth be told, we (you and I) are far better off than the majority of the world. Just the fact that you are reading this on whatever electronic device you’re using, somewhere safe, clothed, and sheltered means we have much.

I’m learning how much I still hold, despite the emptying. The pruning.

No one is to blame but myself.

I heard a song on January 17th, 2010…and at 6:16pm I downloaded it from iTunes. The song is called Open Hands by Matt Papa. Sometimes I sang it like a prayer. Other times I thumped it in my car till it shook the windows. From the depth of my diaphragm to the peaks of my lungs I would sing with passion:

To give unselfishly, to love the least of these…I’m learning how to live with open hands.
All of these treasures that I own, will never satisfy my soul…
To finally let go of my plans, these earthly kingdoms built of sand…
CHORUS: And I lift my hands open wide, let the whole world see, how You loved, how You died, how You set me free. Free at last I surrender all I am, with open hands. With open hands.

Listen to the whole song here with this Pop-Up Player or here .

I kid you not; somewhere in the back of my head now, I hear a voice, “Baby Girl (this is what God calls me), remember when you sang this to Me? Remember how you pounded your chest like Celine Dion, and raised your fist in the air like crazed Raider fan? Remember this when the ‘you know what’ hits the fan.” (the voice used the actual “s” word)

Oh I’m so stupid. God loves a dare.

Of these I grow surer each day:
1) my stupidity and
2) God’s willingness to take the triple-dog dare.

So, this is also how I am learning to rightly “fear God”—the hard way. I’m also learning, when talking with God, be careful what you ask for—especially when it lines up with His will. Asking God for His will might be His favorite prayer. And sometimes when your heart really means it (even though your head has no idea what it’s asking for) it’s a prayer that gets answered with expediency.

Before I get too far off track, let’s get back to January. As I sang this song, “I lift my hands open wide, let the whole world see” I meant the words as they left my lips. I just had no idea of the fullness in my hands. I had no idea the amount of pruning God had in store for me.

And… I. Asked. For. It.

Now I’m not saying that God plays tricks and fools us into things. But He knows our hearts. And just like an athlete who has a deep-heart desire to train to become something great…I wonder if they would have had that initial desire, knowing how hard the training would be. How long it would take. The aches, pains, broken parts, set-backs, and blood-sweat-and-tears. I think not. But the coach (The “Trainer”) knows, and knows what is best for the athlete.

Like that athlete and their initial desire, I have wondered: 

       What if I’d never spent 99¢ at iTunes on January 17th, 2010.
       Would my life have not changed?

Is it possible? A simple song that stirred my heart so strongly could cause a string of events? A savings account would be drained, unhealthy friendships stripped away, a home lost, a debilitating season of doubt, a business reduced, physical beauty attacked, humiliation, etc…

A skeptic would tell me it’s just a mere coincidence: the purchase of that song, my passion in its lyrics, and the loss I’ve felt. But I choose to see it differently. I choose to connect the dots. The more time I get between the loss/pain and the “now”, the more I start to see the better purpose that came from the “you know what” that hit the fan.  That “you know what” has been the fertilizer that grew good out of each loss.

And while I can see some of that now, I’ll be honest— I’m still scared to death of future loss. I keep thinking God has got to be done pruning away the parts of me and my life that bear no fruit. I keep thinking, this has got to be the end of loss, I can’t take anymore. And I certainly can’t see how ANY good could come from losing what’s left of this, that, and the other.

So I’m left with nothing more than to depend on God, to pray (and beg and plead),  “No more, please no more, I get it, I’m pruned and bare, please don’t remove the last limb with its parse bud.”

Ironic. As I’m writing, my window blinds are open and I’m distracted by my neighbor pruning an Ornamental Maple. She’s been studying the tree and carefully removing wayward branches and lower shoots. Being a gardener myself, I understand the process. But she’s been doing something I’ve never seen before—she runs her hand along a single branch several times. I can see she’s feeling for something. She confirms the spot after multiple passes, and then makes a cut right above the section that holds whatever it is she’s felt.  She steps back and looks at the tree from a distance and then begins the process again. She’s been working and giving attention to this one single small tree for a while now. Like my neighbor, could it be that God puts this much attention on us and cares with detail about our long-term development?

It’s gut wrenching as things that seem good and okay fall from our hands without a Divine intervention. It’s a frightening process as healthy looking growth is removed.  But a skilled gardener knows the benefits of wise pruning.

I suppose God is the original Gardener. I suppose He is the ultimate Coach.

Through physical and spiritual pruning, and endless training, I’m learning how much I still hold in my hands, despite the emptying. Maybe that is the point.

I’m learning where to place my trust and dependence. Maybe that is the point.

Obstacles are being removed to prepare me for a new thing. Maybe that is the point.

Somehow I think I’m slowly getting the point.

Copyright © 2009- 2011 Sherry Meneley . All Rights Reserved . . . soiled wings

8 thoughts on “Triple-Dog Dares

  1. You’ve got the point, you know you’ve always had it. Maybe it’s all about seasons. Sping always comes after winter (and yes I am trying to convince myself). Great post Sherry.

  2. Brilliant writing my friend! I think we can all learn from your “pruning!” Thanks for sharing with such openness, honesty and description!

  3. Umm, about being stooopid…

    About two months ago, I asked God to give me the wisdom to know what to say to my friend who is having struggles with her family. I had gone through many of these same struggles in the past, so I thought this qualified me to tell her what she was doing wrong. I thought if she would just make a few adjustments with what she says, how she says it, and be more loving, her situation and relationships would improve. So, in earnest prayer, I boldly asked God to give me the wisdom to know what to do, to know where to start helping her see what needed to be changed.

    God was faithful and answered me with startling speed. I was trembling and breathless with excitement as I heard Him say, “We will begin here.” And then it happened. It was an “in my mind’s eye” kind of moment, but I saw an image of a mirror being held up in front of my face. It took a moment to sink in, to understand the answer to my prayer, but once I did, I sat down and then broke down into tears. What I thought was love and concern for my friend was judgment. I realized I didn’t have experience in dealing with wounded, broken relationships, I only had experience in running away from them.

    The passage Matthew 7:3-5 came to my mind, which is amazing since, although I have been a Christian since I was eight-years-old, I barely know my Bible. Once again I started crying because I knew what was coming, and I knew I could accept it or I could run away from it, again. I decided I didn’t want to run anymore, so with tear-soaked cheeks and my hands raised to heaven, I said, “Okay Lord, I am ready. I’m scared, but I know You love me, and I love and trust You, so yes, we WILL begin here.”

    The pruning is painful, and there has been loss, but I have gained more. My eyes are being opened to things I couldn’t see before. As the saying goes…You can’t see the forest for the trees. I don’t know if my prayer was a triple-dog dare, but it was definitely a dare, only I didn’t realize it until I read your story.

    Thank you for sharing your faith and all of the bumps, bruises, and skinned knees that go along with it. In the past, there have been times that God has truly blessed me in spite of my disobedience to Him. It’s a comfort to know that He uses stupidity as well. Your words have been a blessing and an eye-opener.

  4. I’ve been dreaming big for years and then something that I thought was finally the realization of those dreams – or at least the first steps toward it – turned out (it looks that way for now anyway) to be a big loss. It has left me confused, feeling a tremendous sense of being lost and wondering if I made the mistake of my life. I find myself questioning everything and constantly looking for ways to rebuild what I’ve lost because of my decision but it seems near impossible. I don’t know what God is doing, or what the purpose is of some of the people that are in my life right now, but I do know this: it is very hard. I reason a lot and I’ve been trying to figure it out, but I don’t know the answers and I don’t know what the future holds. I’m continuously working to get my focus on God. Some might say that the less you have should make it easier to focus on God but the nothingness has at times felt so overwhelming. I guess I still have a LOT to learn; a lot of pruning to endure…

    • Liane – I hear you. I really do. And I’ve been there… which means nearly nothing to you, but it makes my heart ache knowing some of what you’re going through.

      I don’t know if somehow we miss God, or misunderstand, or if we were on track but God is putting us into a pause. All I know is that I have had all three happen.

      And on this side of those events – I can see that I NEEDED to walk into those moments. I needed to see that I confused my desires for what I thought God called me for. I needed to know that I misunderstood God. And many many (too many) times, God needed to put me into a jolting halt.

      And each time it felt unfair and not right and “why the heck isn’t this happening to others???? I have a good heart, God. This is NOT fair!” And really, each time, it came down to my will being broken. And oh did it break… and (I feel crazy for saying it, but) oh am I better for it. Liane I hope a light on a path appears soon. Even in the darkest, there is hope. Just hold on. I know that’s hard to trust – but just hold on.

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