this is life 16.0: the open hands

i’ve found myself thinking about ‘open hands’ a lot lately.  it’s a phrase that many Christians reference, frequently in conjunction with job 1:21:  ‘the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’  but i don’t think i ever fully knew what it meant until now.

i think my greatest mistake was in only looking at the last bit of the verse: ‘the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’  that is beautifully true…and beautiful to know that we hold things loosely, ready for the Lord to take them away again if that is His perfect will, for which He is worthy of all blessing and honor.  so i do not mean to minimize this portion of the verse.

but in only seeing that portion of the Scripture, i missed something equally beautiful…that the Lord gives.  that just as we must be ready to ‘give back’ what He has given should He require it of us, we must also be ready to receive from His hand what He gives.  often i find myself fearing the taking away so much that i don’t want to open my hands even to receive, lest what i receive be taken away again.  but that antagonizes the whole idea of blessing the name of the Lord in any and all circumstances.  so that the open hand is not only once He has pried our fingers open to receive, but always…we stand with hands open, ready for God to put things into them and take them out as His sovereign and loving plan dictates.  which is both a terrifying and incredibly peaceful realization.  terrifying because it means giving up all pretense of control (which we never had to begin with).  but peaceful because it means recognizing that He controls all…and that His control is loving beyond comprehension.

i recently listened to an indelible grace album in which kevin twit spoke on the assurance that we have in Christ.   and since he said it so much better than i could, i’ll paraphrase what he said in reference to a line from this song, which talked about “tracing the rainbow through the rain.”

‘that’s not referring to a cutesy bow, like a hair bow. the rainbow actually is meant to refer to a battle bow, ready for war. and the picture that God gives us that He’ll never again destroy the world by a flood is a battle bow, cocked and aimed at Himself. and what the cross says is that that bow has been loosed…but not on us. so that when trials come, we don’t just keep our heads up, we grab hold of the covenant promise: that He will not destroy us because He destroyed His Son in our place. one of the puritans used to say that if you don’t understand justification by faith, it makes every trial a double trial, because not only do you have to endure the trial but you have to wonder if God hates you. but if you know that Jesus died in your place then you know that God’s wrath has been fully poured out on His Son, and now He has given us a Love that will not let us go, because we have a Love that let the Son go in our place.’ ~kevin twit (paraphrase)

the reason i can open my hands is because His were wounded to purchase the right of doing so.  if that does not give me the peace and assurance i need, i do not know what will.  open to the Lord’s giving, open to the Lord’s taking away…open to bless His name in every circumstance.

this isn’t to mean that i actually do.  it’s easy, incredibly easy, to let circumstances cloud my vision, to stop looking at the cross and to look instead at the waves.  but oh, the depths of the riches of my Savior’s grace!  because, in the words of elyse fitzpatrick and jessica thompson: ‘grace is God’s favor given to you because of Jesus Christ, not because of your consistent memory of it…so when you have that morning to top all mornings, when everything that could possibly go wrong does, when grace means nothing to you, it is His grace that will sustain you.’  how precious to know that His grace covers even my shortsighted forgetfulness of it.  so that i trust Him not only to give and to take away, but for the very ability to hold my hands open to it.

at the tenth avenue north concert i went to a while back, mike donehy talked about the way he thought about holding up hands in worship.  that a lot of us (myself included) tend to see it as an overly charismatic practice, and i think it can be…or as a sort of ostentatious, see-how-pious-and-worshipful-i-am type of thing, and i think it can be.  but he spoke of it as a physical expression of the ‘Abba, Father’ cry…like a little child holding up its hands to a parent, asking to be held.  ‘Daddy…up, please.’

i still don’t know if i can bring myself to raise my hands while singing at church.  but i think that raised and open hands are metaphorically at the very heart of worship.  because what is worship?  praising God in every circumstance for all that He is:  for His mercy, for His grace, for His sovereignty.  that requires trust.

trust is a child who runs to her Daddy because she is confident in His love and strength.  trust is hands that are raised and open.

“so when your wine is all gone

and your well runs dry

open your hands and look into My eyes

all that you see here

you’ll soon leave behind

so open your hands

and look into My eyes.”

~audrey assad, wherever you go


2 thoughts on “this is life 16.0: the open hands

  1. Such a good post, carreen…

    “often i find myself fearing the taking away so much that i don’t want to open my hands even to receive, lest what i receive be taken away again.”

    you’re spot on.

    And one of these days I’m going to finally send you a longer than long letter…

  2. Rebekah Carniglia 12.21.12 — 7:55 am

    It is interesting that you wrote about lifting up hands in praise to the Lord; it is something that I have been thinking upon lately. I have always been afraid of unspoken criticism, (or appearing charismatic,) and because of this I have refrained from doing so in a public arena. However, when I cannot sleep, I find myself raising my hands as I sing in my heart to my Saviour, careful not to wake my sisters, but so desperately desirous of worshiping Him.
    I think of that verse where Jesus said not to do things for public observation, but to just go aside, into the closet, and pour out all before Him, to pray, to worship, to adore. Yes, in this, my sleepless nights are my times of joy, and I lift my hands to Him there, but I am grateful for your reminder that it is our privilege to glorify our Creator, anytime, and anywhere.

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