Originally posted Dec. 5, 2012, at A Front View Pew. Republished with permission of the author.
One of our council members recently shared with the congregation how difficult it was for him to sing “Here I Am, Lord” and I’ll gladly second his motion. That hymn certainly falls into the choker category for me as well, so you can be sure I didn’t include it on my list of favorites that our pastor asked us to submit.
The same goes for “Take My Life and Let It Be” by Frances Havergal. I have my own version that goes more like, “It’s My Life. Now Let Me Be.” Oh, sure, I have sung, “take my will and make it Thine,” plenty of times, but I knew full well that it wasn’t what I meant. God can “take my moments and my days” when I haven’t got my own plans already. It doesn’t matter if all I wanted to do was lie on the couch and watch “Little House on the Prairie” reruns; the important thing is that it was my idea. If God had something else in mind for me, I did not want to hear it.
Dear God, I so much want to be in control. I want to be the master of my own destiny. Still I know that you are saying: “Let me take you by the hand and lead you. Accept my love and trust that where I will bring you, the deepest desires of your heart will be fulfilled.” Lord, open my hands to receive your gift of love. Amen. (Nouwen 2006, 61)
So for me at least, this relationship between heart and hands is why giving is so important, not simply for the church to meet its budget, but for my own spiritual life. An offering is only part of a larger spiritual discipline. Each time I open my hands to release those material things (which God has given me in the first place), I practice for the more difficult task of letting go of myself.
Holding on isn’t only about maintaining control. It’s also about fear. Henri Nouwen tells the story of an elderly woman being placed in a residential care facility. All that she had left of her own was one coin, which she held on to so tightly that it took two staff members to pry it out of her hand. This woman had lost all that she felt identified who she was and feared giving up that final thing would mean the loss of herself. While it may sound like an extreme example, it helps us to think about what we have to be afraid of. Can there be anything that we cannot entrust to God?
Trust was the focus of our pastor’s recent stewardship article and it shows up also in Nouwen’s prayer. When I can open my hands to God in trust, letting go of the need to control everything, I am in a position to receive and to be led. Receive what? Go where? How important is it to know?
Worship is one of the ways we can practice and experience this. Opening our hands, we receive the gift of Christ’s body and blood, strengthening our relationship with God. Opening our hands to share the peace of Christ, we strengthen relationships with each other. Opening our hands, we offer our possessions and ourselves to be used in the service of God’s kingdom. We pray God’s will be done. It will be done — through our hands.
Join me in asking God to help us to trust, to open our hands and hearts to do what God has called us to do, not only as individuals, but also as Christ’s living body, the church.
Find a link to Anita Nuetzman’s blog A Front Pew View at Lutheran Blogs.