Open Hands

I can’t stop thinking about Kara’s post from Monday (well, technically from April 28, 2014). I remember reading it when she first wrote it, shedding tears over her dream of having a late-in-life baby. While Kara was receiving her terminal diagnosis, I was having my baby girl. Once Ann was born, Kara would come over and ooh and aah over my her, snuggling her and making all the baby blankets smell like patchouli. One day she casually told me that dream of having a baby, maybe even two. At the time, we just shared sad smiles and praised God for his grace, even in the absence of our sweetest dreams come true.

I remember thinking about how wonderful that would have been if Kara had been able to have one more baby. Before the terminal diagnosis, I imagined her story differently; I thought she would recover from breast cancer and then have a miracle baby that would redeem so much of her suffering. That would redeem her family’s suffering, actually. It was strange having to give up my own dreams on someone else’s behalf. But it wasn’t until I read this post this week, almost 2 years after she wrote it, that I realize the implications of walking life with someone who was dying.

In a way, we all had to do what Kara is talking about—open our hands wide, allowing expectations and dreams to slip from our fingers, ready to accept what God’s dreams were for us. None of us wanted to admit that our friend was starting her long goodbye. We wanted to pretend like she would be here forever, but that wasn’t loving to her. Love was meeting her where she was, listening to her heart, helping her where we could, and encouraging her toward Jesus when despair threatened. And as difficult as all that was, it was an honor and a delight; what God asked of Kara was so, so much harder.

If you ever look at the comments on the Kara’s Collection posts or on the Mundane Faithfulness page on Facebook, you’ll realize that the common thread is how well Kara reflected Christ—how deeply she understood grace, how tender and vulnerable she was in her expression of the gospel, how deep her faith was. And I would argue that none of these things about her could be true if she hadn’t opened her hands: I’m asked to open my hands wide to the dream I dreamed for myself, and in its place is something different. It is beautiful in its way, but it feels impossible to embrace...There is love to give, love to capture, and grace to name...I have to keep moving in the tasks of today. I have to quiet the lies of the dream I had for myself, and seek the grace in the truth of what actually is.

If she hadn’t opened her hands, if she hadn’t been willing to let go of her dreams, could she have seen the grace in the dream of living in the reality of God’s grace moment by moment?

This week has been challenging for my family. We’ve had hurting friends, sick babies, scary lab results from the doctor, and news of more layoffs at work. I find myself thinking about Kara’s hands. Her beautiful hands, lifting her dreams to Jesus and making herself available to receive grace through the story he wrote for her.

I look across the table at my husband and wonder what it would mean if he doesn’t have his job a month from now. What would it mean if the lab results indicate the scariest news for me? Can I open my hands to God and sorrowfully yet joyfully let expectations for my life slip through my fingers while receiving the weight of God’s dreams for me? Do I believe that God’s grace will meet me even if my biggest fears come true?

How many of the founding fathers and mothers of our faith experienced the same dilemma? Abraham and Sarah, who were promised more descendants than the stars, remaining childless year after year, finally blessed in their old age when their bodies would have struggled to keep up with their baby. Joseph, who enjoyed the full delight of his father’s lavish love, ending up a servant and then prisoner in a foreign land. Job, who did everything right, losing his livestock and children and status. Jonathan, a prince who should have become a king, his inheritance given to his best friend instead. Mary, a young woman betrothed to a respectable carpenter, suddenly pregnant and just a wild story of an angel to explain her situation. And even Jesus himself, the Son of God, praying in the Garden of Gethsemane that the Lord would take that cup of suffering from him.

Each of these people ended up with a beautiful story of redemption, their faith impacting all of us for the rest of time. We have learned from them how to surrender, how to lean into God, how to trust God’s sovereignty and goodness and love. But what if nothing huge ever happens to us? What if it’s never completely obvious what God is asking us to surrender? What if the surrendering happens in the mundane things of everyday life?

Yesterday, babies sick, my son couldn’t go to preschool, my daughter couldn’t go to ballet, and I couldn’t visit my grandmother at assisted living. I didn’t get the work done I had hoped to do—instead, I cuddled my littles and watched endless episodes of Sofia the First and Curious George. I ordered pizza for dinner instead of cooking a welcoming meal for my husband. I didn’t shower; I was lucky to make the phone calls I needed to make; the clean dishes remained in the dishwasher. And here is where I need to examine my heart: what was my heart’s attitude in all this? I can say I wasn’t angry or resentful that my plans were disrupted, although it wouldn’t surprise me if I had been. I just kind of went with the flow and realized things were beyond my control. I was meh.

But friends, I want more than that. How can I, in the small disappointments of everyday life, be intentional about looking for grace when the circumstances don’t feel big? How can I take advantage of God’s pursuit of me through the mundane to be transformed by the gifts of his grace? How can I lean into Jesus in the small things so that his love takes root deeper and deeper in my heart? I want to have a day when my expectations will not be met and instead of going with the flow, I hold my hands up to God and say, Fill my hands with grace, dear Lord. Show me the blessing of leaning into you, of acknowledging the sweetness of your sovereignty and purpose. Delight me with the knowledge of being a part of your story, of your redemption plan. Let all my dreams for today slip through my fingers, and replace them with the weight of your glory, with the joy of walking with you. Open my eyes to see the grace that meets me in the awkward, clumsy crannies of my day. Don’t let me miss your grace...

Please tell us your story of how you have learned or how you struggle to lean into Jesus when you’ve been asked to let go of your dreams. How did God meet you in that moment? What dreams did he replace yours with? Do you find yourself, like me, responding often with a meh attitude? Or are you resentful and angry? Maybe you joyfully reach toward God’s hands, eager to accept his story for you?