Last year, on the very first day of the New Year, I wrote a blog post entitled “2017: Open and Out.”
It was hardly a blog post that was easy to write, and I’m not gonna front, I was anxious about what the Lord would require of me in the coming year if I dare utter (let alone pen the words for others to see) and make a commitment to living the year with my hands “open and out.” I was afraid of what He might ask, anxious of what He might require. To be perfectly fair in representing my scared heart, I felt like a child as I wrote that post.
Countless times and in many moments, I have revisited my words written and committed on January 1, 2017.
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.
Too many times I stand before the Lord with open and outstretched hands, only to close them and pull them back later.
So when we got sudden news last week that our littlest soul might be moving (rather soon but not finalized) from our home, I revisited those typed words from the beginning of the year.
Of course, we always knew this was a possibility. Truly, we have. Sure, we signed up to foster with hopes of adopting but when you foster, you FOSTER! There is no guarantee of anything. You live with a constant awareness that though you love her like she’s yours, you know she’s not. Though you pray over her like she’s yours, you practice “brain surrender,” knowing she’s not. Though you are making family memories, hopefully including her in every single one, you are truly living with your hands and heart…OPEN AND OUT.
But last Friday, I wanted to close those offered hands and recoil those surrendered palms. It didn’t feel good; it didn’t feel fair; and it hurt like crazy.
Rewind to the post from January 1.
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.
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.
Ugh. Why did I write those words? Why did I consent and commit to this goal? Why didn’t I choose something where the outcome felt GOOD and GUARANTEED and where the results were more in my control?!?!
But shortly after we heard the news last Friday, the Lord reminded me of a passage from Luke 1.
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God…And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…For nothing will be impossible with God.”And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
Once again, in a way that only He can, He WOW’D me with His living Word.
The angel suddenly (out of nowhere) descends upon Mary, and he tells her news that troubles her; she attempts to discern what all of this news means and will mean; she feels afraid; and she even asks the “how question.”
The narrative felt familiar in the deepest parts of my heart.
But then Mary does something that beautifully depicts a life lived with OPEN AND OUT hands.
And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
Right there, wherever she was when the angel came, she opens her hands, surrenders the news, and embraces the Word of the Lord. In that moment, Mary makes a choice to submit with a trusting spirit. Not because she has all the answers and not because it feels good or makes sense, but simply because she knows her identity and His.
“…I am the servant of the Lord.”
In that moment, she voluntarily makes herself a bondslave to the work, word, and will of God. Actively, she is tying and binding herself to the Lord…relinquishing her plans and surrendering her feelings.
OPEN AND OUT.
I don’t know what tomorrow holds, and I have no clue what 2018 will bring for our littlest, our home, or our family, but here is what I do know:
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…For nothing will be impossible with God.”
It is the Lord who will be faithful; it is His power that will overshadow me; and it will be His mighty arm that does the impossible through my extended hands and surrendered heart.
“…let it be to me according to your word.”