When God calls you to the other side of the world on mission, you have to expect that he is going to teach you a thing or two. This is just one of the many lessons that he used to slowly change my worldview that once so easily defined me.
Growing up you could always find me traveling. Always discovering new parts of the world and experiencing new cultures. But there was something different about the Kenyan culture that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around. I spent weeks trying to figure out what made these people stand out so much. They loved so well. They were always content. They were so full of joy and were consistently hospitable. What made them so appealing to my Americanized way of life? One day it finally hit me: It was their empty hands.
Looking back at my life in the states, it seemed pretty normal. I lived in the usual day-to-day consumer lifestyle, attempting to manage a schedule too busy for one person to handle. I lived a life saturated with the phrase “I want” and was immersed in a never-ending cycle of “what’s next”. What’s the newest health trend? What’s the trendiest thing to wear? What’s the newest and coolest car that will grab everyone’s attention? I became sucked into a culture of people that were so consumed with accumulating things that there wasn’t much room left for receiving anything that actually lasts.
Since I grew up in the US, I was used to this lifestyle. It’s natural to crave the next best thing, and I’d be lying to you if I told you that when you know Jesus you will never again get caught up in the “I need” lifestyle. But what I learned in Kenya completely changed my mindset. The Kenyans taught me to have empty hands. What I mean by that is that we must be open to what God has in store for us.
So many people that I met in Kenya had very few things. They didn’t have the newest brand of clothing, or the latest IPhone, or the most expensive and organic groceries. And they didn’t want any of that. They didn’t necessarily have everything they wanted, but they had everything they needed. They held onto fewer things of this world in order to fully hold onto the maker of it.
God slowly began revealing this tough reality that I was holding onto too much. Too many worthless things, too many reputations, too many earthly goals and treasures that would get me nowhere once this life was over. My palms were overflowing with things that I had such a strong grip on, and that likewise had such a strong grip on me.
He revealed to me a picture of me reaching up to Him. Asking and begging for his help in my daily life. But the hands that I reached towards him with were completely full. Full of so much earthly luggage that there was no room in my hands for Jesus to grab a hold of me. To captivate me and take me where he wanted me to go. To lead me hand in hand to the next destination in his will.
At that moment I finally understood it. The reason these people were so intriguing. The reason they were so joyful and content. They were deprived in the American sense, but satisfied in the heavenly sense. They held so little, but received so much. To me, it was the most beautiful thing to witness.
It’s crazy to think that Jesus had to take me clear across the globe to help me realize something so simple: Jesus wants us and only us. He doesn’t want our baggage, our accumulations, or our most prized possessions. He only asks for an open and willing heart. He longs to see us reaching up to him with empty hands that are ready to receive all that he has to give us. He wants us to drop the things that hinder the opportunity for him to fully grasp our attention. The things that crowd our hands and distracts them from doing the work that he called us to do.
Is it easy? Nope.
Will we be challenged? Absolutely.
But is it worth it? 100%.
Approach Jesus with longing arms. Reach up to him with expectations of mighty wonder and possibilities. All he longs for is an open heart and two empty hands. Let go and grab on. He will never disappoint.
“Set your affection on things above, not on things of the earth.” Colossians 3:2