An Open Hand

“Some people care too much. I think it’s called love.” – from Winnie the Pooh

I have a problem. I think it’s a good problem to have, if you’re going to have a problem. But as with all problems, it’s still a problem. And that makes it problematic.

I love too much.

It’s funny… the third time I met with my counselor, she said, “After you’d told me about all of your abuse, I was really surprised that you hugged me after the first session. A lot of abuse survivors are more hesitant to hug someone they’ve only met once.”

Well, I guess I’m the exception to the rule. I’m a hugger. But more than that, I love easily and I love hard.

So, what’s the problem?

When you love easily and you love hard, you get hurt and you get hurt a lot.

I meet people. I immediately see the best in them. I fall in love with them. And inevitably, I get hurt.

Gary Smalley uses an example that, for simplicity’s sake, I’ll water down. (You can find out more about it in his book, Love is a Decision.) But basically, he says that each of us is like a hand. Our fingertips are our spirits, our fingers are our souls, and our palm is our body. And when we get hurt, we close up like a fist.

In the past several months, God has begun to systematically do an overhaul in my life. One of the hundreds of things God’s been changing in my life is my relationships. Some of those who I considered close friends have wandered out of my life. And a few have flat-out rejected me—sometimes in bold, ugly, hurtful ways. In each of these instances, my initial reaction has been to close up. To withdraw from social situations—from church, from family gatherings, from social media—any situation that would require me to interact with and possibly get hurt by people.

Only an open hand can give and receive.

Honestly, I’ve come extremely close to withdrawing a number of times. But something has stopped me each time. Like my sweet friend who reminded me that when others decide to reject me and walk away from me, it’s their loss and that I have too much to offer the rest of the world to allow rejection to hold me back. And another sweet friend who emailed me on a day that I felt that withdrawing was a real option and told me that what I say matters to her and ministers to her.

My friend, Cecille, calls them “blessed subtractions”—those people who walk out of our lives for whatever reason. She figures that there was a reason they were supposed to go and that we shouldn’t see it as “rejection” but as “blessed subtractions.”

I think I’m starting to grasp that. As close as I got to shutting down, closing up, and withdrawing in these past months, instead I’ve become more and more determined to make sure that the people that remain in my life are loved and loved well. God’s brought some incredible people into my life during this period of time. He’s brought me some people that I can’t imagine not having the opportunity and the privilege of loving. And He’s brought me some people that probably need loving a little more than some others. And I’m so humbled that He’s brought them into my life.

I’m so grateful that I didn’t shut down, close up, and withdraw, because in keeping my hand open to give, I have received so much in return.

I was twenty-two before I figured out that Jesus loves me just the way I am. And only recently have I begun to realize that His love for me started long, long before that.  I’m the girl that was always too fat, too ugly, too loud, too dumb, too slow, and too lazy. But it has been absolutely healing for me to see God, sitting in the workroom of Heaven, holding me and lovingly crafting me in the palm of His hand. And if you miss everything else I say today, don’t miss this:

You are loved! By me, but not just by me! He lovingly crafted you in His hand in the workroom of Heaven, too!

About Sarah Salter

Comments

  1. Sarah: I love the use of your “blessed subtractions.” As a pastor, I used to moan and agonize over people who left the church for whatever reason-some legitimate and some because they got their feelings hurt or things didn’t go their way. I began to change my thinking and realize that perhaps they were “blessed subtractions” and God was doing a work. Granted, some of it was my fault in some cases but in some, pure selfishness. the church I now pastor was screaming at the 200 mark January of ’09. Everything was hitting on all cylinders (or so I thought). By the end of the summer we were screaming toward 120. People left over a staff person, worship changes, failure to move to a new location, and because they didn’t get their way or got their feelings hurt. But God was pruning. The spirit is good. We have moved (to a place we could never have fit in before and now have 2 services in until God opens the door for a future building). Blessed subtractions included getting rid of negative people with their own agenda. Sorry to have rambled but I understand the need to sometimes take negative people out of our lives-whether personally or professionally. I have had to do both. Great post today!

  2. Sarah Salter says:

    Bill, I’m had lots of blessed subtractions in my life and even though it often hurts at the time, when I look back, it’s usually pretty easy to see why I’m better off that they’re gone. Often, they are people that “poison the well” in some way. People that are extremely negative and are killing something in me. Or people that are using me in some way, that I’m too weak to say ‘no’ to. People that distract me from doing the things that God’s called me to do. It still hurts to lose them, but at least I can look back and see a reason for it… And see that I’m better for it.

  3. Blessed subtractions and blessed additions are all a blessed thing. Being loved by the almighty God, I am blessed beyond measure and out of His love, I am enabled to love others with an open hand.

    Appreciate this glimpse into your journey! Continuing in prayer for you.

  4. Sarah Salter says:

    Thanks, Dusty!

  5. Dacia Bryan says:

    Very wise words my friend.

    I pray I will be a blessed addition in the lives of the hurting people with whom God intentionally crosses my path. And you have definitely been a ‘blessed addition’ in my life too! Love ya girl!

  6. Sarah Salter says:

    Thank you, Dacia! You have been a ‘blessed addition’ to MY life and I know to the lives of others, too! Love ya!

  7. Add or subtract, all God’s work is wonderful! Understanding how it all fits together can take some time though so we have to trust Him. So glad we don’t have to live closed-fisted, but we can receive and give love the way our Father does. Great post, Sarah. Thank you.

  8. Sarah Salter says:

    Jason – Amen to everything you just said! You encouraged me, as always!

  9. Sarah, you’ve been a blessing to me personally, as well as many others in my world. You being loving, kind, and ministering to those who feel like they aren’t worth ministering to, is amazing! These are wise words. Thank you!

  10. Awesome, Sarah. I love it when you spill out your heart. We are all benefiting from your growing and healing. Praise God for your perseverance.

  11. This is the first time I have read your blog.

    Hugs.

    May your walk with Him continue to bless you and others as you testify here to His strength — His Love — His Holiness — and minister to others through your willingness to lay open your heart with your own hurts and the lessons they have taught you.

  12. From childhood I learned to close my fist quick and tight, not to punch others, but myself and hold others away. Like you, God has been gently leading me to stretch my fingers out in praise and hope–only when my hands are open–and my heart is vulnerable–can I give and receive love. There is love here, in your post. Thank you for sharing. Blessings on you journey! :)

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