Though I don’t have a spreadsheet of tabbed resolutions nor a newly bought leather-bound planner to document and track my best-laid plans of 2017, I have spent some extensive time thinking about what I want my over-arching goal to be for 2017.
And though I wish I could say that I had come up with the goal on my own, I can’t say that I had anything to do with this year’s over-arching goal. Because I didn’t.
Standing at my kitchen sink earlier this month, I started thinking through some of my goals.
- Continue weekly discipleship relationship
- Take a photography class
snackingbinge’ing after dinner
- Get involved in a Sunday school class/community group
- Continue exercising 4 times a week
- Read a book a month…or more
- Continue building relationships with those in my neighborhood
- Shutterfly memory books for each of the kids
- Write once a week
- Work through the Psalms this year
- Make more intentional time to sit and talk with Don
And this was just the beginning of the mental list that was forming in my mind as I stood at the sink with my hands in soapy suds.
But as fast as that list took form, the Lord spoke into my soul faster and louder.
Jessica, I want you to just keep your hands open and out.
I want you to keep your hands open, relinquishing the controlling grasp your flesh is inclined to desire, and I want your offered hands to stay out, no pulling back.
Watching the cars zip by the front of our house, I stood there in humbled silence.
There was no mistaking His voice; there was no interpretation problem; and there was no misunderstanding. It was His voice, and it spoke a good and true word to His daughter’s soul.
Open and Out.
The two words swirled in my soul, piercing my heart in a way that only the Spirit can pierce.
He was right.
SO many times I extend my open hands, offering the Lord my time, my resources, my gifts, my energy, my hurts, my hard, my relationships, my conflicts, my empty places, my (insert whatever), but then I close them up. I offer my offering, but then when things get hard, or messy, or down-right scary, I curl up my hands and close them off. I grab for control; I close for safety; and I retreat for comfort. My hands that were open start to close and withdraw.
He was SO right.
Too many times I stand before the Lord with open and outstretched hands, only to close them and pull them back later.
Because let’s be honest, offerings aren’t always easy and certainly not comfortable.
We offer to get involved in that ministry, but then things get hard.
We offer to serve in that community, but then things get messy.
We offer to open our homes to people in need, but then things get difficult.
We offer the Lord those yucky and hurting places, but then things seem to get unjust.
We offer the Lord our time, but then things get more time-consuming than we had anticipated.
We offer to follow Him into the scary and unknown places in our culture, but then things get tense and heated.
We offer Him open and out-stretched hands but then the offering starts to bring pain, death, and change. And just as quickly as we were to extend our hands, we’re quickly tempted to close those hands in front of the altar of obedience and pull them from the altar of sacrifice.
Painful, those offerings can be, as they shed the old, prune the unfruitful, and weed out the dead–changing our hearts as they mold the rough, tough, and broken parts of our lives.
The offering is hard.
And I imagine that there were some other followers of Jesus who found it hard (at times) to keep their hands open and out.
I imagine Noah had moments when he wanted to close his hands when the mockers came and the rains were missing. I imagine Abraham wanted to pull back His hands as the knife hovered above his beloved. I imagine that Moses wanted to close those hands as the complainers grumbled and the wilderness wore on. I imagine that David wanted to pull back his hands as Saul hunted and threw his spears. I imagine that Job wanted to close his hands as his children died and his sores wept. I imagine that Paul wanted to pull back his hands as the chains rubbed and the crowd threatened.
And yet…the faithful kept their hands open and out.
They followed the call, and they faithfully persevered even though the winds blew and the waves rocked.
Open and out, their hands remained; steady and committed, they kept their offering on the altar; trusting and faithful, they looked toward the ONE who created their hands…and they kept them open and out.
And let us not forget…
In the garden, with outstretched hands and blood-soaked tears, the Lord Himself submitted to the Father’s will, obeying the call and drinking the cup…the greatest offering that EVER WAS and EVER WILL BE.
At the cross, open and out.
So as I move into this next year of 2017 and as we embark on this fostering-to-adopt path, I am praying that no matter what goals might be achieved and no matter what resolutions are met or unmet, that I would faithfully remain with my hands open and out, obeying and offering…no matter the cost, no matter the path, no matter the hard.