Do you know how people in India people catch pesky little monkeys? It is far more simple than one might imagine. They simply place an apple or another round, sweet fruit in a jar and walk away. The sugar-loving little guys just come up and place their hands in the wide-mouthed jars easily. However, once they make a fist around the desired object in the jar, they can no longer pull their hand out.
It would be an easy escape for the monkey. He or she needs only to let go of the object to pull his or hand from the jar, thereby living in freedom. Yet, I have it from my father-in-law, an inside source to India, that they just sit there, clutching desperately to their desired fruit, like sitting ducks waiting to be captured.
I guess we have more in common with our monkey friends than most of us care to admit. We both struggle to live with open hands, and our greedy, desperate clutching after God’s gifts leads us both to live lives that are far from free.
We were created to enjoy the gifts that God gave us so graciously; however, we weren’t created to have the death grip that we now have on God’s gifts, namely relationships.
A.W. Tozer beautifully captures the way things were intended to be.
“Before the Lord God made man upon the earth, He first prepared for him a world of useful and pleasant things for his sustenance and delight. In the Gensis account, these were simply ‘things,’ They were made for man’s use, but they were meant always to be external to the man and subservient to him.”
Relationships are gifts to be enjoyed in the presence of God and under the principles He set in place. Yet so often, we try to greedily snatch them and hide them away from His presence with clenched fists. When we do so, we are enlsaving ourselves, just like the silly monkeys.
A.W. Tozer further explains this huge problem in the second chapter of The Pursuit of God.
“The roots of our hearts have grown deep down into things, and we dare not pull up one rootlet lest we die. Things have become necessary to us, a development never originally intended. God’s gifts now take the place of God and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstrous substition.”
How, then, do we learn to live again with open hands that can enjoy God’s gifts without worshipping them in place of the Giver?
We must first recognize when our hands are stuck in the jar. When we are clutching so tightly to a romantic relationship (or even the potential of one), a spouse, a friend, a child or a parent that we are paralyzed in fear or control or perfectionism, the gifts have usurped the Giver.
We need not feel shocked or ashamed, for God is neither. He knew the deep sin-sickness of the human heart when we He willingly chose to die for those who spurned the Giver. He asks only that we repent and believe; that we loosen the death grip we have on His gifts, particularly the people we most love.
Tozer explains why this loosen of our grip is so challenging when he writes the following:
“We are often hindered from giving up our treasure to the Lord out of fear for their safety. This is especially true when those treasures are loved relatives and friends. But we need have no such fears. Our Lord came not to destroy but to save. Everything is safe which is committed to Him, and nothing is really sage which is not committed.”
Despite all the lies we believe, our treasures are safest when brought back into the presence of the Giver. When He has first place, when He has control, we get both the gift and Giver. We get to enjoy our relationships with open hands, ultimately placing our hope and well-being, as well as their’s, into His care.
What gifts or relationships are you gripping so tightly as to be stuck?
What would it look like to entrust those back into the hands of the Giver?
A full forest of gifts await us, if only we could open our hands and step away from the jars that trap and paralyze us.
The good news is that God is committed to our freedom and will help to unwrap our fingers from the gifts that we clutch out of fear.
Lord, you are both Giver and gift. We so desperately want to live with open hands that are able to enjoy the gifts you give in Your presence. Unwrap our fingers and hearts from the objects and people we love most; they are safest in Your hands and we are most free when we hold them loosely. We need your grace to trust and release. Amen.