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Why I need open hands and open sails
One of my seminary professors taught me to pray with an open hand. Rather than cross my hands or put them together, she taught me to place them in my lap. The open posture is about receiving what God is offering you and it works well, for me, in contemplation and meditation.
I am learning these days how that open posture is good for many things.
In my twenties, which were not very long ago, I had a penchant for drawing hard lines in pen. I am an opinionated person and I often feel more comfortable after I have made a decision (hence the “J” in my MBTI score), so I ended up kind of cementing myself in one place or another. Cement isn’t a very good surface for growing seeds. I needed looser soil.
Thankfully cement isn’t hard enough to be permanent, and certainly nothing that a sledgehammer can’t break up. So I took the sledge to some of my hard opinions, and even if I didn’t totally shift them, I loosened the soil enough to let some new life grow.
I had to be more agile if I was going to keep following the Spirit in the way she was leading us. If I wanted to bring the Gospel into the present with great flexibility, I needed to be more flexible myself. I’m not necessarily talking about theology or doctrine, but even the emphasis on such abstraction. These theological lines are often drawn in ink, when I think graphite would do them better. Just a lighter hand, the willingness to erase, learn, and grow.
The roots of faith that I have need space to grow, and if I am too heart-headed or heart-hearted I don’t think I give them that capacity. I need space to grow, and I am less likely to grow if my mind is made up. What will happen if the Spirit wanted to move in me or move me? The Spirit blows whichever way it chooses. I hope my sails are open to catch her wind and my soil is tilled enough to receive new seeds.
I think the flexibility I am slowly learning helps me listen better. My open hands help me to receive what people are saying and not judge or assess them right away (which is still a temptation). It also helps my mind and heart to be moved. It helps me to extend more grace and love.
If I’m just waiting to speak, I’m not listening very well. And if my mind is set, I don’t think I’m being soft enough to actually listen and understand. Our dialogue should be a chance to learn from each other, not a chance to just convince each other. Ironically, I am more likely to influence someone with my opinion if my listening is earnest and humble.
And if I’m going to ask to be listened to, ask that people come to me with an open mind, I need to authentically return the favor. It’s become easier for me to do that, and also more necessary to do that in my slightly older age (I’m not old yet).
A flexible posture and open hands protects me from the pain of being forced to change because the error of my ways was so loudly presented to me usually by way of an egregious error or hurt that I’ve caused. I admit to doing plenty of that in my twenties. My weaknesses and growth edges were exposed through some reflection and some mistakes.
I don’t often talk about that, but I’m learning that even in my weakness, Jesus saves me. Or as the Daily Prayer author was telling us this week, it’s in our weakness that Jesus saves us. Acknowledging my weakness is easier when I’m holding things with open hands and a softer grip. Apologizing and repenting comes easier. It isn’t through my “rightness” that I am saved, but through the grace of God.
The Lord holds me with open hands. And slowly, I am learning to do the same with myself and with others.