Surrendering the Box I’d Put Myself in
Over 25 years ago, a friend invited me to church – over and over and over again. I’d told her, I’d bent to Baptist – and just didn’t think I could bend to this new church. It would probably break me. In retrospect, I was probably scared of something so very different.
I was still hungry for more of God. I just didn’t know what that more was.
. . . wanting more of God yet put off by something different. . . Oh yeah! God had a plan, but I had to be willing to move into it.
My husband I had moved to a new town a few years before – we’d come with one and now had 3, one just a few months old. We were searching for a church home. God hadn’t let us settle in anywhere we’d visited or spent time, so one Sunday in early June, tired of looking, parched for this more that was stirring within, I tried my friend’s church.
Worship was different from anything I’d every experienced, resulting in a fight or flight reaction. As a matter of fact, if I hadn’t been sitting in the middle of a back row boxed in by people on all sides, I would have walked out. People were passionate about God. Hands up, singing loud. Clapping. Some were probably even stomping their feet. They were “going to the enemies camp” and “taking back what he stole from them.” This wasn’t my grandmother’s church service.
Yet when Praise and Worship was over, when I’d sat down (My grandmother’s etiquette drilled in to me wouldn’t let me scramble over people to leave), I heard these words, not audible to my ears but to my soul, “I’ve been waiting for you. I’m glad you’ve come.” The fight or flight left, and I was filled with beautiful peace. The sermon satisfied my hungry soul.
The next week, the whole family went – and we stayed there for over 15 years.
New things are hard. I’d say Fight or Flight has been at the beginning of everything I’ve done that I needed to do. Not feeling it should probably be a warning to me. New things require learning, realizing that I don’t know as much as I thought I did.
My husband and I had been hungry for more of God – and that more was filled with new things to us – but not new to God.
Worship was one of those new things. There were a lot of people hands raised, as if they were reaching up to God. Some people ran in the aisles. Every so often some prayed in The Spirit.
I’d never heard of those things – and my pride kept jumping in the way, me thinking I knew everything when I didn’t know a thimble full of anything.
I half-jokingly asked my friend who’d become like a sister to me, “What’s with this holding your hands up? Is it just to show off everyone’s pretty manicures?”
Yes! I said that, half-joking, meaning it more than not. Now it sounds derisive, judgmental, prideful, mocking.
I don’t remember what she told me, but my reply was just as arrogant, “Well, I won’t be holding up my hands until God throws them up.”
Yeah – that was me 25 years ago. Hungry for more of God. . . but fearful of the more. Because, you see, at that time, I knew God as my Lord, as my King, as my Creator. My Savior. I knew He was powerful. My most precious memories were the times when I was little talking to Him in the backyard – and calling out to Him in the dark at bedtime when I was frightened of so many things. I’d known God a long time, and I wanted to live for Him for almost as long as I’d known Him.
Yes, I’d known God, but I was just starting on a journey to know God as Father – a journey to understanding that He loved me just as much as Peter, James and John, that I had a place at His table, in His house. He let me see me as He saw me – and not only revealed all the broken places within me, but revealed He was the healer of my broken places. Before, I didn’t know the plans He had for me. There was so much I didn’t know, and that pride was a box I had carefully tucked myself in to, preventing me growing, stretching, seeing all God had for me.
No, I wasn’t going to life my hands in praise until God threw them up for me. I’d grown up in church – surely I would have known about lifting my hands in praise? Right?
“Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven.” ~ Lamentations 3:41
One of the phrases I kept hearing over and over again as we attended this new church was, “If God has more for me, I want it.” I felt like Oliver Twist wanting to take his bowl up for seconds but the fear of rebuke or censor stopping me from taking that first step.
I kept pressing in closer to Him, trying to find out what this more was.
Raising my hands during praise and worship was something that kept nagging at my mind. Should I?
“Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!” ~ Psalm 141:2
Would I just be ostentatious, showing off my manicure? Would it mean anything? Would people look at me? Mock me? (OUCH!)
“Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint for hunger at the head of every street.” ~ Lamentations 2:19
Was it real? I wanted to give God my hands. . . but I’d spent a lifetime folding myself into a box, not wanting to be noticed . . .being noticed brought ridicule, unwanted attention, bullying.
““If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence or blight or mildew or locust or caterpillar, if their enemy besieges them in the land at their gates, whatever plague, whatever sickness there is, whatever prayer, whatever plea is made by any man or by all your people Israel, each knowing the affliction of his own heart and stretching out his hands toward this house, then hear in heaven your dwelling place and forgive and act and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways (for you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind), that they may fear you all the days that they live in the land that you gave to our fathers.” ~ 1 Kings 8:37-40
One Sunday morning during praise and worship, the palms of my hands started to burn. . . and inwardly, I battled until I finally surrendered.
“Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to you for help, when I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary.” ~ Psalm 28:2
I lifted my hands.
The burning of my palms stopped. Coincidence? I tested and lowered my hands. The burning started again. Up and down my hands went a few times. When my hands were down, the palms burned. When I lifted them, the burning stopped. I finally just kept them up, reaching like a child wanting the comfort of its father when everything suddenly becomes too much.
“Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!” ~ Psalm 141:2
In worship that day, I surrendered – my pride, my comfort, my territory that is the box I had put myself in ( which was really His territory all along, and I’d been holding on to it as if it were mine). The lifting of my hands was a handing over of my pride to my Father. It was the first in many, many handing-overs through the years.
There’s still more I don’t know. Yet, I go to Him, lift my hands up to my Father, like my children did to their father – reaching, with confidence their Father would pick them up to comfort, protect, give them rest, or just love them. The sacrifice of the hands has become for me a beautiful love offering!
“I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.” ~ Psalm 143:6
Who has there been in my life but you that has understood the way I learn and known how to shepherd me to the pastures that strengthen me, fill me with the soul nutrients needed to become who you designed me to be. I praise you for being a God who gives me living water to help me overcome what I cannot do on my own. You are a good! Good Father who doesn’t despair when I am hard-headed, when I seek my own comfort, when fear tries to stop me from doing what you would have me do, when I am graceless. You are The Father who never gives up. You don’t just restore my soul; you grow my soul. Only you can do that, Father! In the world, there are leaders who do not love their people, Fathers who do not love their children – but, you, Father God, love your children, love your people. Your plans prosper your children, to give us a hope and a future. You are worthy of all glory and honor and power. You are worthy of our praise because you are a God who saves, who redeems, who guides us through the challenges and teaches us to do better. I thank you, Father, that you never gave up on me, that sometimes you waited for me to catch up and when I needed chasing down, you did! Thank you, Father, for teaching me how to give you the gift of my hands in worship. Thank you for chipping away at the pride that held my hands down and helping me step out of that box that I had made that kept me from knowing more of you. I pray, Father, that you open my eyes to what you would have me learn next, that you would open my heart to love you more, that you would teach me how my worship and praise would be a sweet aroma to you. I am hungry for more, Father – open my heart and my soul, break the hard ground to prepare it for the planting of the next lesson. Amen.
(I didn’t have hands-raised photos, but I thought hands holding things – things in our comfort zone and out just might work with a stretch of the imagination)
Remember Me Monday: #46 & Linky
“I’ll make a list of God’s gracious dealings,
all the things God has done that need praising,
All the generous bounties of God,
his great goodness to the family of Israel—
~ Isaiah 63:7, The Message
In the Old Testament, God repeatedly, quietly and loudly, tells his children, “You have forgotten me!” (Jeremiah 3:32, Ezekiel 22:12, to name a few). It’s a heart cry from a father to a child who has forgotten all the love, all the saving, helping, little and big blessings – and it leaves me stunned when I realize our Father, the creator of the universe, who knows things I cannot begin to fathom, who authors storylines that leave me amazed, delights in all of us so much, He cries out, “Remember Me.”
While every day is a Remember God Day, I am inviting you to join me on Monday mornings to come by and remember what God has done for you, for your family. Maybe God sent a cardinal darting out in front of you, as if to tell you, “I’m here,” or broke a child’s fever after you laid it all down at His feet in a 2 a.m. bedside vigil. Maybe He stood with you in the wait of a prayer sent out, or brought someone you loved to Christ. Maybe He healed your broken heart, gave your courage, or you gave Him your dreams as a love offering only to have Him give them back in an unimaginable way. Maybe God helped you survive to bedtime after a crazy Monday, or forgive yourself for missing it with your kiddos –– Whatever it is, let’s Remember Him. . . in a “Remember Me Monday” love letter.
“My mouth will tell of your righteousness,
Of your salvation all the day long,
Though I know not its measure.
I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign Lord”
~ Psalm 71:15-16.
Let us delight in Him by telling the stories of what He’s done! If you wrote a blog post remembering what He’s done for you, join the linky. If you didn’t but still want to praise Him for what He’s done – write it in the comment section. Then visit a comment before or after yours! One of the beautiful things about the blogging community is the relationships it builds!
Rules? Write long or short, a list or a story, include photos or not. Just Remember Him and what He has done, and let the gratitude of your heart guide you. Let’s make Monday so Rejoice, that the goodness of God spills into the rest of the week!
Places I’m Linking at This Week:
Inspire Me Monday, Instaencouragements,
Legacy Link-Up, Recharge Wednesday
Faith on Fire, Tell His Story, Grace&Truth
Let’s Have Coffee Wednesday Celebrate Your Story
God is always in the business of wooing me out of my comfort zone. It’s always a “fight or flight” feeling, but SO worth sticking around for. I love your story!
Wooing sounds so gentle – He is the soul whisperer. You are so right! It is worth sticking around for!
Maryleigh, I loved this story. May we always hunger for more of Him=, for He is always willing to fill and satisfy our souls.
Joanne, it wasn’t a story of me at my best – but it was a story is part of God’s work in my life! Yes! May we always hunger for more – because there is more of Him than we can imagine!
Maryleigh, my heartbeat, and breathing are faster now than when I began reading this beautiful post. I know I am in a box and about to make a huge move for a widow woman of 73. I, too, will need to find a new church. I have lifted my hands in praise even in a Baptist church where few are lifting them. Yet I did because I beheld Him and desired to worship and praise in this way…sometimes. Yes, it was only on certain Sunday mornings when I was so moved by the set of music we sang in preparation for the coming sermon. But my box feels different than just lifting hands. I have so much to learn about our Savior, like you. I am in a fearful box, a box that brings tears right this instant as I type. I am not sure exactly what it all is. But I want to know. Thank you for this piece…even though some major new, unknown (right now) buttons are being pushed.
Also, Maryleigh, I think we need to write that book together for your prayers are absolutely beautiful. This one today is moving me so. I shall be rereading it today and tomorrow. I have much journaling and pondering and praying to do.
I love you dearly and ask for prayer for me, sweet sister.
Linda – God is a God of movement – and in order to find the more in Him – we need to continually be willing to move. That you are following His call – and making this Big Move! Oh My Friend, He has good! Good Plans in store for you. He has life and life abundantly. Keep Moving,friend! And that prayer book? I will be your biggest cheerleader – I want your book on my shelf! ~ Messaging you, friend further. ~ Maryleigh
Linda, thank you for sharing your heart so we can support you in prayer.
I love the patience and gentle leading of God, loving us where we are until we are ready to give up that last bit of control in order to trust him fully. What a beautiful testimony.
I am grateful for a patient and gentle leading God, Kym. He is such a good Father and a good! Good God!
Worshiping the Lord and praising His majesty moves my heart and thus my hands to lift up holy hands to Him…the One worthy of all praise.
Beautifully said Karen!
What a beautiful testimony you have growing in the Lord Maryleigh.
Thank you for sharing that with us today.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Jennifer, and “listening” to my story! Shalom! ~ Maryleigh
Thanks for sharing this journey with us.
Thanks for “listening” to my story, Lauren! ~ Maryleigh
Whew, I was right there with you, Maryleigh! I went from a very zipped-up conservative church for 50 years into a hand-raising, praise loudly church. And I love it. 🙂 That’s where we’ve stayed.
There’s so much more to God, Lisa – and we both want to find it all! So glad to be sharing this journey with you! ~ Maryleigh
“I’ve been waiting for you. I’m glad you’ve come.”
And those were the words we had been yearning to hear all along.
Yearning is the right word, Linda – yearning to know that He is there!
This is so beautiful, and inspiring.
Thanks for sharing.