Rags to Riches: Hands Wide Open
It's been a pleasure and privilege to journey through this series with you, to see how Jesus makes a difference in our lives. The last post in the series encourages us to dig deep into His sacrifice made on the Cross, and in doing so swap our rags for His riches. May this bless you in some way! Nadia x
'Rags to Riches' - is there a better way to describe the story God longs to author in each of our lives? He takes away the rags that we once clung so tight to, the rags that used to cover up our insecurities, fears, sins, and brokenness. Into our newly-emptied hands he places riches: riches that don't merely cover up our brokenness but completely heal it, making us whole and new and beautiful.
It's so incredibly good, and it fills me with so much joy to be able to say that I have a Father who has done this for me, who has exchanged my rags for the 'incomparable riches of his grace', (Ephesians 2:7) a Father who is even now growing me more into the person he made me to be. It's such a great adventure.
The first time I remember God whispering this love into my life was on camp, when I was ten or maybe eleven. One of our leaders was giving us some space to think through what we had been hearing about while on camp. After a few moments of quiet she read Psalm 121 to us. These words have always stuck with me:
'Look up to the hills - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip - he who watches over you will not slumber...' (Psalm 121)
Although I'd heard this before, that God holds the whole world - including me - in his hands, this was the first time that I heard it, the first time I really knew that God was actually there and caring about me.
But this did not mean that life was perfect from there on out. Secondary school started and I thought I was doing okay. Through all of this busyness I was trying to work out who I really was: was I defined by the things that I did, by the people I knew, by the appearances I kept up?
For a while, the answer to this question was yes. I think it's true for many of us: we define ourselves by the performances we give. Even though my help comes from God, I surely have to do something to make it up to him, right? Something to keep in his good books?
Whilst living like this, I found that I no longer felt at home so much. I found myself getting more exhausted, worried, and stressed out. It was soul-destroying, this act of keeping up appearances in order to feel valued by God and by those around me. Outside, I may have looked fine, but inside, I felt like I was scrambling to stay standing on ever-shakier ground.
I kept turning to God in the Bible and in prayer for help, scrawling out words from the heart in the hope that he would hear and fix it all for me.
One moment that stands out was when I was on a residential weekend for a leadership course. As we arrived on the Friday night, we had some time just for worship and prayer. The leader, Cath, stood at the front, held out her hands in front of her, clenched, palms down. She said, 'All of you, close your eyes and hold your hands out like mine. Imagine you're holding shopping bags full of all the things you've done or thought of said this week, all of the things occupying your mind...open up your hands and let them go. Place them in front of God as you come to Him this evening. Now turn your hands over, hold your open palms up to God.'
This very simple symbol just kind of undid something in me. I felt the weight lift from my shoulders: I was allowed, invited, to give all this stuff I'd been carrying to God. He wanted to have my 'shopping bags' full of craziness and hurt? He desired to give me something of him to hold instead?
It didn't mean holding up rags to hide my failings and keep up 'perfect' appearances. It meant giving up my failures and my strivings, and letting God transform me with his riches.
I found and I still find now, as God reminds me of my identity in him, that the abundant life He gives us cannot be earned. It can only be received, hands wide open, and face tipped upwards towards the light.