Opening My Hands

This is the first chapter in a longer work. Through this piece you can find encouragement to open your hands and your life to the transformative work of God. 

Chapter One
Beginning a Life with Open Hands

The infant stretched her tender-skinned arm toward the ceiling. She focused her eyes on her open hand, moving it about, observing it intently, fascinated by it. Young and innocent from the womb, she had no reason to clench her fists.

But young girls grow up, and not always in the prettiest surroundings. Youthful innocence can be lost quickly. Hurtful relationships and the painful consequences of sinful living cause open hands to curl shut.

Emotional pain, loss of self-esteem, failed goals, unmet promises, physical and mental abuse, absent fathers, divorce . . . the list goes on. From the moment of Eve’s first sin in the Garden of Eden, pain and heartache came into the world. A woman’s natural response to a hurt-filled, sin-swollen world is to guard herself and those she loves. Guarding and protecting are God-given maternal instincts; they keep families from harm. However, when fear and lack of self-esteem come into play, a healthy defensive attitude can become unhealthy. The result: hands that are closed to love.

A friend asked me, “Why do you act like everyone in the world is against you?” I didn’t have an answer. I knew of no one who disliked me or had anything against me. In fact, the opposite was true.

That night, I prayed and God answered. I heard the Lord say, “Allow me to help you release the issues you’re holding in your tightly clasped hands.”

God wanted to restore my trust, my wonder, my outstretched arm with the open hand. Not so I could get hurt again, but so I could grow, so my world could expand, so the love of Christ in me could be released more extensively.

At the time, it was hard for me to understand a world where I didn’t have to make a fist. I was taught to fear when I lived in a part of town often called the “white ghetto.” My parents told me to take only the main roads home and to never use the dangerous alleys. Teachers instructed me not to take the shorter route home from school but to stay on the big, busy streets.

I learned about anger, selfishness, and fighting as I sat in my second-story bedroom and listened to the brawling neighbors whose window was directly across from mine. That’s the tune I went to bed with every night. I often woke up to police sirens and drunken reveling coming from the privately run college dormitory down the street.

I learned first hand about rejection when Dad left home and didn’t return. On the day before my twelfth birthday, his angry shouting was even louder than usual. He broke a dresser drawer with a swift kick. He threw treasured items across the room. He hurled hurtful words recklessly at my mom and anyone else within earshot.

I gathered my younger brothers and sisters and took them to Grandma and Grandpa’s house two doors away, thinking it might be safer there. Just as we reached the steps of their home, I heard Dad’s yells coming across the wooded area that separated the houses. The five of us, ages two to eleven, huddled in a corner of our grandparents’ enclosed cement porch, wondering what would happen next.

Dad jerked the screen door so hard it came off one of its hinges. His screaming and shouting filled the small enclosure. I’ll never forget the look of terror on my dad’s face when our eyes met. Perhaps he wanted to stop the drama, yet it had gone too far. I don’t think he knew how to turn back his anger. So he continued in his rage.

Little did he know that this harsh tirade was the last communication he would have with the majority of his kids. In the course of my life, painful situations such as this have kept me from fully knowing and understanding God, from developing a loving, trusting relationship with him as my heavenly Father. These hurts developed in me a defensive stance that affected my relationships at home and on the job.

God’s Word gives us skills to live beyond our hurts; it teaches us to have a level of expectation and respect for ourselves that goes beyond a life of merely defending and surviving. He calls us to freedom. Freedom from the issues of a sinful world. Freedom to live abundant lives in Christ. The Lord wants us to move from living with our fists clenched to experiencing life with open hands, emptying out the past and expecting great things in the future, things that He has prepared for those who walk in Him.

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Responses

  1. Very touching Valerie, I was not aware of your painful childhood. You clearly have a peace now that comes from a loving relationship w/ our heavenly father.

  2. I always felt blessed during my childhood. I had my Mom and my grandparents who loved me. When my Dad left, there was a new peace that I think God put there. I had God to talk to. Jesus and I were best friends. It wasn’t until I looked back and allowed myself to see all that had happened did it seem painful. I’ve heard it called a father wound. I believe this story shows that most of us have issues when we grow up. It’s quite common. But as you said, our heavenly father is there to bring peace.


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