It’s the lesson God keeps teaching me. Revealing new aspects of the lesson at different times and ways in my life.. Since July of 2013, God’s had me on this fascinating little journey with two words – Empty Hands. So much so, I think about the concept and what it signifies regularly.
Some quick backstory… I’m writing more detailed about my life and the incredible work God’s done and the changes I’ve experienced through it all, but the whole story will come later. Right now, the cliff notes version.
I had some pretty traumatic things happen in my life. I had a hard time dealing with the emotions. I buried them. I had anger and anxiety and depression rear their ugly heads. I felt defeated. My perfectionist tendencies gripped me. I was a mess, a functional mess. But I hid my mess pretty well from everyone outside my family. And I was not always a beautiful mess. I reached a point where I knew I needed help, so I sucked up all my pride and made an appointment with a therapist. I like to call that person my Life Coach, but really, it was therapy, counseling, whatever you want to call it.
About a month into all of this, something really awesome happened. I’m a musical person. Since I was young, the music of the church has been pretty instrumental in my life and in my worship. Traditional hymns that I still cling to, and yes, contemporary worship songs that have carried me through difficult or emotional times.
Side note: that’s one reason I hate the “worship wars.” God can use whatever music whenever He desires. Every heart is different and every person worships differently. Don’t judge my worship style. It changes as God changes me. Can’t people just accept that a popular worship song can speak to the someone just as much as a 16th century high church hymn? End rant.
Back to my story. I started therapy. For the first month, consistently, despite the time differences, I would hear the same song on the radio every time I was either driving into the parking lot of the office or leaving the parking lot. We have several Christian stations, and it didn’t matter what station. Now, some people will try to say God wasn’t part of that, it’s coincidence, whatever. All I know is what I experienced and how the Spirit spoke to me.
The song is the popular Sidewalk Prophets song “Help Me Find It.” The first weeks leaving a session, it stood out to me because of the line “I’m giving You fear and You give faith/I giving you doubt/You give me grace.” Most of those first couple sessions dealt with fears (anxiety) and faith. So, it was a nice reminder of how God can replace my frailties with his promises. Then again, the next couple weeks, same thing. The song was there. Right along with my sessions.
Then one particular week, we did this thing called Reflective prayer. My “Life Coach” would pray on my behalf using her words, and then I would echo back what she was saying in my own prayer using my own words. It seemed a little different, even odd, to this girl with a pretty traditional Baptist upbringing. But – It worked. It was helpful for someone like me who had been struggling with prayer for several years at this point to be guided through a prayer exercise. During that time of prayer my therapist looked up at me and said, “hold out your empty hands.” I was honestly a little uncomfortable with this exercise during the moment, but I could logically see what she was doing, so I complied.
I held out my empty hands.
She prayed this beautiful prayer about how I was coming to God with open, empty hands, giving over to him my fears, my anger, my feeling of inadequacy. I had to let go of what was weighing me down, give him empty hands, and let His love to be poured out to fill me up. And I then reflected back something along those same lines.
I left feeling lighter. It was a good session. But then, as I got in the truck, a sacred echo of that prayer hit me. Before I could even get out of the parking lot, there it was on the radio. “Help Me Find It” by Sidewalk Prophets. I was amused a bit that it was playing and said to God, “Okay, why this song again?” And then I listened – and heard the lyrics that had escaped me before.
I lift my empty hands (come fill me up again)
Have Your way my King (I give my all to You)
I lift my eyes again (Was blind but now I see)
‘Cause You are all I need
The tears just came and begin to run down my cheeks as I’m driving home. At that moment it was just me and God and I wanted to lift my empty hands, but had to keep them on the steering wheel. But it was one of the most powerful moments in worship I’ve ever had.
I emailed my therapist when I got home and told her what had happened. Remarkably, she’d never heard the song. She responded back later, moved to tears herself over the experience and how God reminded me of a lesson I needed to learn.
Within the next few months, I had a few more empty hands moments. A couple other songs mentioned coming to God with empty hands or having God fill our empty hands. When I could feel the anxiety bubbling up or the anger starting to grip me, I would just silently say in prayer, “Empty Hands.” It was my way to tell God to replace my weakness with his strength.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
Little things over the last year or so have reminded me of this concept – the empty hands. I’ve even joked about a small tattoo of empty hands as a reminder of this transformative moment in my spiritual life and mental health recovery. Lately, I felt the lesson was pretty solidified in my head. I had learned what God wanted me to learn from that moment. But then today, listening to an author give a speech something new hit me. The meaning got so much deeper. I’m trying to write it all out now and will share it with you soon. Let’s just say when God’s wanting a moment to really teach you, the lesson doesn’t always end at that time. That or I’m exceptionally hard headed… Come to think of it, that possibility is not too far fetched.