When I was going through grade school, we used to play this game that required two people to be good at slapping hands. Sitting across from one another, one person would put both hands out (palms up), and the other would put their hands on top of the other person’s hands (palms down). The goal was for the palms up person to slap the top of the hands of palms down person before they yanked them back to safety.
And I realized that that silly grade school game was a perfect illustration for how we normally begin our relationship with Jesus.
I started following Jesus seriously as a sophomore in high school, but I didn’t really know what he could do until college. And I definitely would’ve described my faith as skittish and hesitant at best, which is why that game works so well to explain it!
Imagine yourself sitting in front of Jesus with your palms up. Imagine that everything you have (your job, your family, your car, your dog…) is being offered to him through your open hands. But each time he goes to reach for one of those precious items, you yank your hands back.
Now… that moment is not a fun moment.
You’re either ashamed because you yanked your hands away or crushed that he took something you loved. From a new believer’s perspective, it feels very “lose-lose.” But we know that it only means they haven’t explored who God is and what he wants for us yet. In fact, a verse comes to mind…
When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned like a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me completely.1 Corinthians 13:11-12
But, because we know that becoming a believer doesn’t mean we have an easy life, let’s say that he does take something that you love. I think there are three important things you have to remember in that moment:
1. You put your hands out there for a reason.
This one seems rather obvious, I understand that. But why did you offer what you had to God if you weren’t ready for him to use it for his glory?
You’re never going to be ready for him to remove something (or someone) from your life. The loss of a job? Nope. The loss of your spouse? I think not. A miscarriage? Definitely can’t plan for that.
Your life is out of your hands because everything that fills them belongs to God in the first place. He’s only taking back what was given. So, I urge you to remember why you began following God. Did you do it because you wanted to see great big burning bush miracles? Did you do it because you hit rock bottom? Did you lose absolutely everything in a Job-like moment and had nothing left to even offer?
I hope you rediscover why you said “yes,” because while your situation may change, your God never does.
2. You’re not promised a happy ending, my friend.
Gently, I am urged to remind you that this life isn’t about you. If you belong to the family of Christ, your life is now a tool to bring others to him right along with you.
And, you know what else?? An earthly happy ending doesn’t always look like a heavenly one. I have a friend that I love dearly. She is one of the happiest, most optimistic people in my life and she absolutely refuses to like movies that have…shall we say…a “real world” ending. In her world, The Titanic would’ve sailed off into the sunset; Thanos would’ve been destroyed waaaay before he knew about the Infinity Stones; and Anna and Elsa’s parents wouldn’t have left on that ship, and they all would’ve lived happily ever after.
But there’s no writer’s room for our life. Loss and grief are inescapable for us. It’s not about avoiding sad things, but learning who God is when we encounter them.
3. When God takes something away, get ready to learn.
This has been true every. single. time. In fact, just go ahead and buy a cute notebook to set aside for this very occasion, because I promise that you’ll fill it if you dig into God in these moments.
There has never been a time where God removed something (or someone) from my life without teaching me something in the process. Actually, there were several years that I slept with my Bible because I was afraid of putting it down. It was the only physical connection I had to the one Person that had the answers I needed and I wasn’t taking the chance of missing something.
I’m sure you know the saying that we learn more in the valleys than the mountaintops. And while it may be uncomfortable to accept, those valleys are crucial to our faith.
There’s not a single Jesus follower out there that hasn’t sat across from Jesus with their hands out — they just may not have thought of that example specifically. We’re the greatest offering that he could ever ask for.
I should note that these blog entries aren’t always for you, sorry! Most of them are God reminding me of something I need to re-learn or revisit. So, I don’t have it figured out. But my “yes” is on the table, my hands are out and palms up, and I’m ready for him to teach me something good — happy ending or not!