Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Present to the Moment: Open Hands

Lake Superior

When we are offered a gift, the natural response is to open our hands. We stand ready to receive. Open hands are the physical attitude that reflects an inner disposition of receptivity. Open hands express gratefulness.

As children, we all began life ready to receive. We are born with the capacity and proclivity simply to receive. Infants cannot feed themselves or change their own diapers. They cannot crawl or even turn themselves over in the crib. Except by crying, they cannot tell anyone their need. The one thing they can do is receive.

Young children approach each new day with open hands, open minds and open hearts. Like sponges ready to be soaked with all of life’s goodness, they climb out of bed open, receptive and free. Everything is an adventure—a treasure hunt.

As we age, however, we encounter disappointments. Some of the adventures turn sour. Christmas morning expectations are disenchanted. We don’t receive everything we hope for. In addition we experience loss—loss of possessions, loss of love, loss of people very close to us. As a result, fear begins to take root in our hearts. So we learn to be guarded. We learn to grasp and cling to what we already have, lest we should lose that as well. Our open hands close into tightened fists.

Therefore, instead of holding out open hands at the beginning of each new day, we clutch what we already hold. Material possessions, prized relationships and personal plans fill our minds and our hands as we move into the day. There is no room to receive anything else—any new surprise that God may have to give us. We approach life with hands that are full—even angry-fisted—and have no room to receive the gift offered for that day.

Open hands convey neediness. They communicate our emptiness. They make us too vulnerable. Herein lies the problem—most of us avoid any show of vulnerability and neediness at all costs.

The Kingdom Belongs to Such as These
Much of the spiritual life is learning to trust again. Indeed, our relationship with the Lord is based solely on faith—trust. Although we live in a fallen world, we have a good God. First we learn to believe that in our heads. Then we spend the remainder of our days learning to truly believe God’s love and goodness in our lives.

Jesus “called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 18:2-4).

In this passage, Jesus is not simply talking about “getting saved,” he is instructing us on what is it to live in the kingdom—i.e., under the rule of God. The more we become like young children, the more we follow the lead of our heavenly Father. The more we humble ourselves, the more we can receive.

With Open Hands
One way that we become like little children is learning to reopen our hands.

This takes time. “When you dare to let go and surrender one of those many fears, states Henri Nouwen in his book, With Open Hands, “your hand relaxes and your palms spread out in a gesture of receiving. You must have patience, of course, before your hands are completely open and their muscles relaxed” (17).

By opening our hands, we open our hearts. We become free, available and receptive to all that the Lord has for us.

© 2012 Glenn E. Myers

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