Thursday, December 7, 2023

Open Hands

I thought maybe I'd go back and pick up God's equality over His "fairness," but now that we've been interrupted, let's just keep going here. (I think I've made the point I want to make on that anyway.) And then, next week, we'll hit Christmas. Because friends, I have some visuals for you around Christmas that even Paul didn't think of. (Okay, he couldn't have. But we'll get there.) 

As I have thought more about this willingness to be interrupted, I think it's important to put even more emphasis on the difference between being interruptable and being "spontaneous." That is, on the difference between having a plan and being flexible...and having no plan and being flexible. 

That's really the heart of the matter, and while it seems straightforward and clear-cut to some, I think others really struggle with the difference here. I know that for a long time, I did. In fact, it might have been just yesterday that I finally felt like I got a firm grasp on the difference here.

So in order to maybe put a little more depth on this issue, I'm going to complicate it for you. My hope is that in providing another image for it, it might help to cement the idea in your head and your heart (and mine). 

Because as I thought about what it means to live interruptable vs. to live spontaneously, I thought also about what it means to live with open hands as opposed to living with hands off. 

This comes out of a Christian teaching that is quite popular, but it is often just sort of handed out as a given and never really explained, and I think a lot of folks get the wrong idea about it. We are told that we're supposed to have a loose grip on our lives, to not be so attached to our things or to our ideas or whatever that we wouldn't be able to give them to God. We are told that God wants us to not hold onto things too tightly, and we are given examples like the metaphor of the rich building planner to remind us how not to live. 

Remember this guy? He was rich and was storing up treasures for himself and was very proud of all that he accumulated, so he was building bigger barns for himself so that he could store even more things...and then the Bible warns that a guy like this dies tomorrow and takes none of it with him and may not even know where it goes when he leaves it behind. As Ecclesiastes likes to say, it is "chasing the wind." It is all but a vapor, a mist. 

Many of us have taken this teaching to mean that we should live our lives with hands off. Not holding on to anything. Ever. Being okay with things just coming and going and flitting by in front of us like butterflies that we can never catch. We have thought that this means that God just randomly drops good and bad things into and out of our lives at His will and we're supposed to just be comfortable with all of it, thanking Him for all of it, and never really engaging with or immersing ourselves in any of it. 

The psychological word here is "detachment," but even that is a misunderstanding. What we're really talking about when we talk like this is an "extreme detachment." Almost a "depersonalizing detachment" - where we aren't really even who we think we are because everything is so fleeting and even our creation, our self, is not concrete. 

This...isn't a healthy way to think about things, and it's certainly not a healthy way to live. 

I don't believe you can ever understand or appreciate the things God does in your life if you don't touch them. If you don't taste them. If you don't smell them. If you don't ever get a sense for how they really feel. You learn more about a piece of clothing by trying it on; how can you understand what it's like to be wrapped in God's grace if you don't ever let it wrap around you because you're afraid to touch it? 

We were never called to live a hands-off life; we were called to live an open-hands life. 

A life where we touch the goodness of God, feel it, know what it's like, embrace it, but aren't afraid to see this season pass. Where we understand that all things are God's and that He can ask for them back, or ask for us to pass them on, at any time, but for the season that He's given it to us? He wants us to have that. To have it fully. To enjoy it. To hold onto it. To cherish something and be thankful for it and to be filled with thankfulness by it, but to be willing to let it go, too. To realize it's given to us, but it's not ours. 

Someone once told me that everything in this world is God's, and we're all just passing it around. And friends, that is true. A hands-off life never gets that, but an open-hands life knows it with confident assurance. 

Have you been living your own life hands-off? Then I dare say, you haven't been living at all. 

Try a life with open hands. It changes everything.  

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