Friday, December 10th
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth… From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. ~ John 1:14, 16 (NRSV)
People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. ~ Mark 10:13-16 (NRSV)
Dear God, I am so afraid to open my clenched fists! Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to? Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands? Please help me to gradually open my hands and to discover that I am not what I own, but what you want to give me. ~ Henri J. M. Nouwen
Everything comes to us that belongs to us if we create the capacity to receive it. ~ Rabindranath Tagore
Through Jesus, we begin to understand how much God wants to bless us! God wants us to receive “grace upon grace” of forgiveness and freedom, of hope, peace, joy, and love, of the entire fullness of God’s kingdom. Can we even fathom how beautiful, how amazing, how peaceful our life together would be – if we could fully welcome and receive every gift that God offers? What makes this so difficult for us?
I believe the difficulty stems from our reluctance to open our hands (and ourselves) to receive God’s goodness, as Henri Nouwen so earnestly admits in his prayer. In order to fully open our hands, we must first empty them – and some things are difficult to release. We cannot readily accept the gifts God offers while we are still clinging to other things. Earlier this week (in Peacefully Rest), I wrote about sharing our burdens with God. Today’s invitation is to release those things we may not want to release – those things we may not consider burdens – but which are keeping us from fully receiving the goodness of God.
What things do you find difficult to release? Do you struggle to let go of finances or schedules that give you a sense of security? Do you find it hard to let go of feelings such as guilt, fear, or hurt, because you have grown accustomed to the weight? Are you reluctant to part with the comforts and freedoms that make life easier? I cannot seem to let go of my often-futile attempts to control my future. I want definite plans and no surprises. What peace am I missing by not allowing God to take my hand and lead me to a new place?
Jesus instructs us that “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” Could this serve as a lesson for us – to come to him with open hands, with pure and innocent trust, with the eager willingness of a child? Our peace will not come from working our fingers to the bone, wringing our hands with worry, clenching our fists in anger or frustration, but from opening them in prayer. When we fully embrace the love of God as shown in the infant Jesus, we receive the gifts of hope, trust, joy, and peace, for all that life brings.
Receive. What are you holding that hinders you from receiving all that God longs to give you?
Prayer: Generous God, open my hands and my entire being to fully welcome and receive what you have to offer me today. As I notice my hands throughout the day, keep me mindful of the peace that only you can give. Give me a spirit of innocence, eagerness, and trust. May I bring your peace wherever I go, always to shine upon others. Amen.