Opening Clenched Fists

Dear God,
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.
— Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life

I have been working over 6 years with Christian Medical & Dental Associations here in Atlanta - and during most of that time I've functioned as a Global Health Outreach team leader on just under 20 medical mission trips sent around the world. One might think that with all of that experience under my belt that I would be an expert at leading missions. You'd think that I have learned all I need to know in doing these missions.

True, I have learned a lot and that I have gained valuable experience over the years. Yet on the other side of the coin, I feel that every time I go and lead a medical mission team that I'm going back to kindergarten. I feel as if I'm relearning important lessons about God, myself, and the mission He has called me to. During each and individual trip, I'm learning and going deeper in my understanding of God and matters of my own heart.

One of the issues and idols of my heart that I am constantly confronted with is my need to control. Control my circumstances. Control other people. Control outcomes. Even though control is an illusion, I still hold deeply to it. Living in a country and culture, like the United States, where most everything is managed and manufactured, it is easy to create the illusion of control. Yet once I step into a country where I don't speak the language, I don't know the culture and I am not completely aware of the outcomes, the idea of control vanishes like a vapor.

This is why I love these mission trips - because they become environments where I can hear God speak to my heart. It is places like El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, Nicaragua and Ethiopia, that I hear God shouting to my heart that He is the one in control. He is the one who is guiding me. He is the one who I can depend one. And as my heart confronts my idolatry of the need to control, my hands begin to relinquish their grip on the assets I possess - my gifts, my leadership abilities, my experience and confidence. My hands become unclenched, opened and surrendered to what God wants to give me - His grace, His love, His power, His peace.

Join me - go and serve on our next medical mission. I trust you will find, as I do every time I go, that a medical mission  becomes a place where God can and will speak to your heart. It truly will become the environment that God will use to conform you more and more into this image of His Son.