I’ve learned when you start grad school in your mid-20s, everyone wants to know why. They want to know what’s next. They want to know your end goal.
Seminary is great and all, but what do you want to do when you graduate??
It’s the same thing when you’re a writer and suddenly find yourself networking with other writers and creatives. So, where are you headed? What are you working towards? What’s the dream?
Which are great questions and all. Except I have no idea.
I’ve learned a new mantra, lately: I’m holding it in open hands.
When I was applying to seminary going off nothing but a nudge from the Spirit, I kept telling people, “We’ll see and all – I’m holding in open hands.”
When the emails kept pouring in and the messages reached an insane number, I kept telling friends, “I’m not too sure what’s going on – I’m holding it in open hands.”
When that cute boy asks me out. When my health takes another dip. When a text from a friend changes everything. When life suddenly looks different than I was hoping. When life suddenly looks better than I was hoping. Open hands, open hands, open hands.
Sometimes mantras can be unhealthy for this lil introvert – I can use them to avoid real conversations. My health? Oh, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. How am I? Busy! So busy! What’s the plan here? I’m holding it in open hands. Moving on, moving on, how are you?! *conversation successfully avoided*
But I’m working on making this one more than just a mantra. I’m working on making it my life.
As someone who spent a lot of her life living with clenched fists, open hands is a healing alternative. A hard-to-learn alternative. Sometimes muscle memory takes over, sometimes I start to feel my fingers curl inward – craving the control I used to know. Craving the stability that comes with holding onto something. Craving the security of having something to hang on to.
Except, as I’ve learned, closed fists make it extra painful when the things you’re holding blow up. Closed fists make it hard to differentiate who wants to be in control (me) and Who is ultimately in control (not me). Closed fists tend to squeeze the life out of the thing you’re holding – while simultaneously squeezing the life out of yourself.
Open hands involve opening yourself up (my personal nightmare). Open hands mean learning to take up space, learning to make some room for the Spirit to move. Open hands mean somethings you really wanted, somethings you got to hold for a little while, get taken away. Open hands mean somethings you never asked for get dropped in. Open hands mean, sometimes, things fall through the cracks of your outstretched fingers. Open hands isn’t easy. Open hands is working towards sustainable.
I’ve lived with closed fists long enough to know it’s not a good long-term solution. Your hand gets cramped. Your fear and anxiety sky rockets. Your life tunnel visions in to the one thing you’re holding onto so desperately. You feel like you can’t possibly hold on any longer, and yet you’re also terrified of letting go. When your fists are tightly closed, it’s near impossible to reach out to help those around you. It’s near impossible to reach out and ask for help.
A few months ago, a yoga class changed my life. It started off like any old class, until we started to move into some pretty difficult balancing poses. Our teacher had us sit back, take a few breaths, return to our mats as we yogis like to say. And then she said, “Remove yourself from committing to the outcome, and allow yourself the freedom to experience it.”
Read it again: Remove yourself from committing to the outcome, and allow yourself the freedom to experience it.
How many times have I committed to the outcome, before even starting the process? How many times have I not been in it because I’ve been too busy living in the future I dreamed up? How many times have I been upset with myself not because life isn’t going well, but because life isn’t going how I’ve decided it should be going?
How much freedom have I lost out on? How many experiences have I limited? All because my fist was too tightly clenched before it even started.
Open hands is not closing in on any decided outcomes. Open hands is staying open to what may come. Open hands is allowing yourself the freedom to be in it, the freedom to be here, the freedom to see what life brings.
We don’t always know the end goal, the destination we’re working towards. Open hands is okay with that, okay with what’s happening right now. Open hands is trusting it’s going somewhere good, trusting our God is, ultimately, good.
Open hands is taking the next step. Open hands isn’t looking at the sign post to see what direction we’re headed, it isn’t preoccupied with the map – worried we missed a turn. Open hands is one small step after another. One faithful step after another.
Life is a tad bit crazy right now, and I’m working on holding it all in open hands. I have class and work and grocery shopping and seven other to-do lists – and they are all sitting patiently in my hand waiting to see which one wins out this second, which one gets my attention. I have yoga and laundry and books to read and naps to take – and they are all laying in my palm, seeing which one I have time for this week. I have relationships that are on the brink of ending and relationships on the cusp of starting and some other friends I really need to text back – they’re all in that hand as well. They are all sitting there, waiting. Waiting for me. Waiting for the Spirit to come in rustle some things around.
Some things will get graciously taken out of my hands – tomorrow or years down the road. Some new things will get placed in my hand. Some things will fall through the cracks as I stretch my hand wider, trying to hold it all in. I’m learning to be okay with that.
It’s all part of the process. I was never meant to carry it all. I was never the one who was supposed to be deciding. All I’m asked to do is be faithful, and keep my hands open.