So it's Friday and I woke up this morning wishing I could go to ALL THE PARTIES on the internets and laughing that I would surely have to scale back my expectations. I mean how could I write one single post about hands (Five Minute Friday) that was a top ten list (The Grove at Velvet Ashes), talked about the joy of finding community (incourage link-up), and a topic that has been rumbling loud in my brain this week, how to approach short term missions with the right disposition.
But as I sipped my morning coffee and my gears got going, I started to think about our hands. And how one of the things that can be an obstacle from us forming authentic community as well as to our approach to short term missions is thinking we have to have full hands, we have to come with something to offer more than ourselves. We need to bring a gift, a supply. a tool, an answer, a solution for our presence to be worth something.
The problem with full hands is this: there is only one possible evolution for the relationships we enter, whether they be with people with whom we are seeking community or brothers and sisters we go to visit at the ends of the earth. We arrive with our hands full of clothes, shoes, sports, equipment, building supplies, solutions, answers, advice, what have you, and we are burdened and encumbered by them. The only solution is to look for an empty, outstretched hand to dump them in. We dump. The person to whom we dump is now full and has to find something to do with the load, so they must turn away. We end up empty-handed, relieved of the gift we carried like a burden, and lonely.
1. Two empty hands can clasp together to form a link. A link in a chain that leaves another hand free for the inviting. A chain that can stretch and grow. A chain that is stronger in its collective grasp.
2. Empty hands can cup what is poured into them, then pour it out. Cupped hands receive a different kind of gift than the ones that are dumped by burdened, full hands. Cupped hands hold something soft, flowing and sacred. Cupped hands indincate care and slowness and a pouring into.
3. Empty hands can embrace when there is no way of working out an answer. When all there is to do is sit in the hard broken, place with someone and hold them while they shake with the sorrow of it.
4. Empty hands can pat backs. Can acknowledge the contributions of another. Give affirm and uplift.
5. Empty hands can steady the ladder while someone else climbs. What a great gift to enable someone else to climb to the top while we steady the base on which she climbs.
6. Empty hands tell our stories. The wrinkles, the scars, the ring, the nails. The sun-baked glow or hard callouses. They tell our story. There is much we can learn from studying one another's hands. If only we are allowed to see them freely. It is much easier to be KNOWN with empty hands.
7. Empty hands reveal our need. When we stretch out empty hands to another, we let them know that we too are needy, we too do not have it all. We too are beggars of grace and good things.
8. Empty hands don't make the ability to work a prerequisite. Sometimes while we mean for our full hands to be a gift, we don't realize that we are saying to those to whom we offer them, if you want to walk with me, you must be able and willing to help me accomplish my goals. But what if physical, mental, spiritual health make that person unable to do so? Then we have laid a road block where we meant to build a bridge.
9. Empty hands can open doors and hold them while others walk through. Enough said.
10. Empty hands look like Jesus. Extended in blessing. Offering an embrace. Calming the seas. Stretched out on the cross. Empty-handed but with so much to offer.
My life in missions has taught me that is okay to approach thing empty-handed. That often it leads to the very best relatioships and the deepest places. Lately, I've learned to bring that to my own search for community as well. And I am so the better for it. So, friend, lay your burden down today and offer your empty hands to someone. And if you headed out on mission soon, consider what might happen if you did so empty-handed. Share your story insead of your stuff. Stretch out and offer yourself, empty and open. I promise, good things await.