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.
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.