My childhood room had a half-moon window high up on my bubblegum pink walls. Sometimes I loathed the thing because it let the cheery sunlight in before I was ready to get my lazy teenage body out of bed. But on some occasions, I had a unique affection for that window. When the moon was at just the right spot in a cloudless night sky, the window was the perfect doorway for moonbeams to come dancing into my room. Usually, they shone straight on to my pillow and cast a soft glow over my entire room. Unlike the harsh sunbeams I wasn’t ready to greet in the day, the moonlight was a much-welcome guest in the darkness. It felt like a gift hand-delivered from heaven straight into my little dwelling place. I remember opening my little palms to the light on my pillow and realizing that it’s a tricky thing to try to hold on to light. When I would close my hands, the moonlight would stay on the outside of my fingers. In my clenched fists? Nothing. Without running or squirming away, the moonlight simply would not be held on to. Every time I tried to grasp it I came up with empty hands.
I haven’t had a half-moon window in my room for a few years now, and I finally understand that light is an intangible property. But I certainly have not stopped trying to grasp on to the things I love. And, even though most of them are good (like the moonbeams), I come up with empty hands every time. Gifts from the Father are abundant, and they are made to be received. In fact, He is surely delighted when we take notice of what He has made for us and receive His gifts with wide-open arms and joy overflowing. But gifts are not made to be grasped. As the Father gives with open hands, not forcing us to take anything from Him, we also must receive with open hands.
Open hands are not necessarily empty hands. Like the light from my childhood, God’s gifts will never fail to fill us up to our greatest capacity if we are willing to receive them. But closed, grasping hands are sure to be empty soon, and they will certainly never be overflowing. So, how are we to receive gifts from our Father? What exactly does it mean to have open hands and an open heart?
Saint Pope John Paul II understood the language of gift better than anyone else I know of. In his 1994 text “A Meditation on Givenness”, the wise Saint reflects on God’s desire to entrust us with other people. What he says of interpersonal gift rings true for the reception of all good things given from above: “God believes in you, trusts that you are capable of receiving the gift, that you are capable of embracing it with your heart, that you have the capacity to respond to it with a gift of yourself.” First, we have to open our hearts to the fact that God believes in us. I wouldn’t want to give a prized possession over to someone who I didn’t know or believe to be worthy of taking the item into their own hands (still trying to figure out who I’ll will my favorite childhood stuffed animal down to...). God counts us as worthy to receive the greatest gifts He has to give. Can you imagine if you bought the ingredients for and prepared someone’s favorite meal, only to have them reject your generosity because they were embarrassed about the trouble you went through to make it? I know I can often stifle God’s generosity when I refuse to accept my worthiness in His eyes; I eat cheap takeout in front of Him when He spreads out a home-cooked meal just for me.
We then have to be aware of the blessings God wants us to receive. We must have open eyes as well as open hands - being always on the outlook for a beautiful sunset or a kind word from a friend signed with love in the Father’s handwriting. In learning how the Father gives to us in small, daily ways, we are better able to acknowledge when His gifts come during those big, breathtaking moments. Once we receive His gifts (both great and small), He trusts that we will embrace them. But this embrace is one of open arms. It is standing in view of a sunset, knowing full well that it will pass into night, but being ready and willing to acknowledge its beauty despite its transience. And ultimately, the embrace must be in a posture ready to receive the Giver, not just the gift. All of the good things of this earth are just an iteration of His ultimate plan to fulfill our desires, and we would be blind to stop our praise at the gift instead of the Giver. To have a heart truly open to His gifts allows for an eternal, loving embrace with the Father, which is indeed the best gift of all.
And, my friends, this gift of love demands a response. In all of His generosity, God trusts that we will not hoard His gifts for ourselves. How comforting to know that we do not have to store, save, and stock up in order to acquire an abundance! With open hands, grace is always overflowing from our own lives and back out into the world. Our own gift of self is a reminder that there is always something better to come, and that we must have an open space to receive the next thing, too. Let us learn to have half-moon windows in our hearts without curtains or shutters- always open, willing to receive, and ready to pass along the beams of light the Father loves to shower upon us (with open hands, of course).
Kathryn Hurd is a senior studying strategic communications and anthropology at K-State. She's a maker, a walker, a butterfly-spotter, and a lover of a good children's book. You can read more of her words, ramblings, and random interests here.