Tonight was my last night in Portland before I head back to Vancouver, BC for university in the morning. My friend Jay and I went to the gathering at A Jesus Church, one of my favorite things to do on Sunday nights whenever I'm home. Check out their amazing podcasts here!
The gathering was cancelled last week due to snow and ice, so this was really the beginning of the year for the church as a whole. And it was the beginning of a year-long journey through the entire Bible from cover to cover, the "Year of Biblical Literacy" as they call it at AJC. I'm excited to walk through the Bible with the reading plan, the teachings, and the videos by The Bible Project. I hope you'll join!
But back to tonight. After the teaching was finished, the pastor asked us to stand, open our hands in a receptive posture, and then just as God what He wanted to do in us this year as we walk through the Bible. What do you want to do in me this year?
I waited for that still, small voice to speak something in my mind that would stand out from the constant background noise of my thoughts. Sometimes I don't hear anything, and that's okay. But in the waiting this evening, I felt the word Trust.
I pondered it, waited a bit more, working to distinguish God's voice from mine. Trust. Something about it brought a peace, like I didn't need to keep searching for another word. It was different, not the "theme" I would have chosen for myself. Healing or Power or Go would have been cool. I like to think I trust God pretty well, I've learned a lot of lessons regarding trust. It kind of felt like a step backward, honestly. But the fact that I wouldn't have produced that word myself convinced me more of its validity. The music began, and we started to sing in worship of our God.
Not long into the singing, my hand started moving. Both of them had stayed in the open, receptive posture of prayer. But without really thinking about it, the right one closed into a fist, then released again. Then it closed, then released. It wasn't until the third or fourth time - or maybe more - that I noticed it, and by that point I didn't know if it had been started by an itch or who knows what. But I let it continue. And then I continued it willingly, trying to listen and comprehend what this might mean, if it meant anything. Trust.
I'm not the first one to consider the parallel of a clenched fist of self-reliance and an open hand of surrender. I mulled over that thought in my mind as I clenched and released, asking God for clarification, waiting for whatever He chose to give. Not much came but the continued pondering of this repetitive close, release, close, release. Perhaps, and likely, it was just a sign that this coming year will be full of things that I'll want to hold on to as I've planned, but I'll need to open my hands and let God take them.
Let God take them? From my open hand? I remembered what we had originally opened our hands for: to receive. Yes, opening my hands can symbolize letting go of things in my life, but one of the primary purposes of the open-handed posture was something else: receiving from God.
I looked down at my hand, still opening and closing it, looking at the open hand and realizing that God doesn't just want to make my hands empty. No. He wants to empty my hands of things that don't need to be there - stress, worry, burdens, sin - so that my hands will have room to receive all the wonderful things He wants to give - peace, life, joy, hope. Those underlined words are ones I kind of came up with on my own just now; I don't really know if that's exactly what God sees me releasing and receiving. But it seems Biblical. It seems like Jesus. So I'll go for it. Why was it my right hand, not both? I don't know that either. Maybe there's a reason He'll let me know at some point. Maybe not. That's okay.
So this is a simple post just to relate a simple symbol as I begin this year. The idea of Trust and of constant release does make me a little nervous. But just a little. Because I'm eager to receive what He has for me.
Okay God, I trust You. Lead me on.