Originally published in the November 2007 issue of groundswell.
I have four impressions on my left hand. It is worship night in my 20s/30s group. I had just taught about how, on nights like this, God can ask us to do things that sit outside our comfort zone. After exhorting the group to follow those promptings, I refused to do it myself. My own exhortation sat in front of my face, begging to be followed. the original comment had not been planned; it was a prompting of the Holy Spirit as I sat teaching. And as soon as I said it, I knew I would have the opportunity to choose whether or not I would follow it. I refused.
To put my hand on the shoulder of one of my own leadership team while we worshipped was too much to ask. And the Spirit brought those words back over and over.
I asked forgiveness for my disobedience. Jesus granted it. And when I was ready to obey, He clenched my hand.
As fingernails continued to dig, I was aware that His call has a timing. It always does. His plan does not often allow for repeated moments to follow in faith.
I humbled myself, placing my whole self back under the Master’s authority, ready to accept if He said I had missed the chance. The Spirit moved. Chills ran over my skin. My clenched hand relaxed. And I took the step toward the person God called me to touch.
With eyes closed, wanting to honor that person’s moment of praise, I placed my hand on his shoulder, continued singing, whole-heartedly praising, now with my actions as well as my words.
I feel his head drop. His voice goes silent, and words overflow from God’s heart to his: “it’s just prayer to music.”
The person on whom my hand rests understands prayer. He “gets” it so clearly. It was worship that he did not understand. He shared his heart with the leadership team before the meeting, lifted a prayer for understanding amid the group, and he waited for God to speak.
At the end of the song, I step away, and God tells me, “It’s your turn to worship.” I remember the impressions my fingernails made in my palm–a result of my disobedience.
Again, words overflow, too fast to stop and think. I dart across the room to my bag, trying to not disturb anyone else’s worship. I grab my notepad and dig around for a pen. I retreat to a corner where I can sit on the floor, against the wall, and worship in my own way–through writing.
I scribble out this story–the lighting is dim to facilitate worship, so I pray that the words are legible. I shake my head in astonishment of how the Father brought this night together. A night of praise music–a teaching about worship–a call to step out in faith–and a lesson about disobedience. It amazes me how much God can do in less than an hour’s time.
The scars on my hand remind me, so clearly, of deeper scars. Other palms were bloodied because of my disobedience.
Jesus paid the debt for my sin. He took the permanent scars from nails and a spear, that my sin would not result in my condemnation. And on this night, He gave me temporary impressions on my own palms. Mine were only temporary, for already He took the permanent ones in His body.
“Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” –John 20:27.
Jesus’ words to Thomas two thousand years ago are the same He showed me that night. My moment of disobedience that night was enough for Him to have to go to the cross. How shameful, my unwillingness to reach out a hand of fellowship and understanding to a fellow believer. Christ reached out a hand of hope to me before my time on earth ever began. The personal risk was so small; the reward to my own faith was immeasurable.
I risked a moment of uncomfortable interaction. Jesus put His heart on the line–He struggled with what He knew was coming. He cried in Gethsemane. But His great love for me withstood the test. His desire for me to live an abundant life of faith with Him during my time on earth remained. His passion for me to experience an eternal life with Him in heaven overcame the struggle.
I will never understand that love. Bur for that I remain forever thankful.
photo by morleys
Those who have followed groundswell for years will recognize that Throwback Thursday is all about bringing in previously-published articles. These articles appeared back when groundswell was published in the form of an email newsletter. Now, those articles are searchable through the blog. Check it out every Thursday. The photos are newly added to the blog.