A few weeks ago, I shared that my goal is to walk through 2016 with open hands. That seemed to resonate with some of you. Maybe it’s because having open hands means being open to risk.
Last week I was texting with one of my friends about a new situation in my life, and I told her, “There are a lot of unknowns, but I guess that’s where faith comes in.”
A lot of unknowns, but open hands.
At this point in my life, I’m realizing that all acts of love are risks. But I know I’m called to risk love because God first loved me.
In my book She Won’t Shrink Back, I share this story:
When I was in college, my roommate Emily and I were sitting at lunch with a few friends. One guy told us about how his parents had adopted two girls about ten years before he was born. He talked about how it had been a rough process for the family, and things didn’t turn out the way his parents had hoped. Now one of the daughters never speaks to the family, and the other rarely does.
As I listened to his story, I stopped eating my lunch and was so sad as I thought about how that would feel as a parent. “Wow,” I said. “I can’t imagine what your parents have gone through. Just pouring their love out year after year for their daughters and never getting anything in return.”
But he looked at me and immediately answered, “Well, that’s what love is. Loving without expecting anything in return.” He shrugged, as if it were that simple. Then he took another bite of his sandwich and had no clue how profound I thought his statement was.
I had heard people say that before; in fact, I might have even written that as the definition for love. But to hear that definition come out of his mouth, connected to his family’s story, made it so much more real to me. And maybe I knew God was going to ask me to do something similar one day. I watched him take another bite and then looked over at Emily with my eyes wide.
Later Emily and I discussed our friend’s family—specifically how his parents had sacrificed and were seemingly not seeing good results from the investment of their love, time, and money into their daughters’ lives. Honestly, I was really disturbed by it. Why hadn’t God blessed their effort and brought unity to their family? His parents had done the right thing, so why didn’t God make it turn out happily ever after?
I guess I wanted justice; I wanted the guarantee that if I do something good and right, then it will turn out well. Emily listened and then told me what I needed to hear: “But there is no guarantee.” She didn’t like that answer either, but she knew enough of life, enough of heartache to understand this reality. I wanted to argue with her, but I knew she was right.
That conversation was over seven years ago now. If I could speak now to the twenty-year-old me, I would say that the story isn’t over for that family—and none of us but God knows all the details to the story. I don’t know what God is doing even now in those daughters’ lives and how He still is using the love from their parents to minister to their hearts. I don’t know how God may be bringing the redemption and reconciliation that those parents have been praying for. And as an amazing byproduct, those parents successfully modeled to their son what the real definition of love is. I smile to think of the ripple effects that their son and his understanding of love will have on his own family and on the many people in his sphere of influence.
Right now, I’m learning that having open hands means being open to risk, open to love those God brings into our lives. #WeWontShrinkBack #JesusTakeTheWheel
Mary works at Brookville Road Community Church, where she leads children's ministry and women's ministry. She is the author of She Won't Shrink Back: A Story of Building & Believing.