We offer nothing - keep that in mind at all times.
The thought came to me this week after some conversations with people and a bit of ruminating on the subject. My past definitely plays a big part in this, so it can get a little complex and perhaps even convoluted at times. But if I strip away all the noise and back-chatter, I'm left with who I am and what I bring ... and the answer to that is nothing.
What I'm talking about is my relationship with God through Jesus. It starts with nothing - an absolute soul-wrenching emptiness that can nearly drive a person mad. Yes, there is that image of the Creator at the core, but I do everything I can at that point to snuff it out of existence. And yet I can't, because I have no power over it - I am nothing. It's at that point where the regeneration, the prevenient grace comes in and kindles that image flame. Like a dreamer awakened from a tormented sleep, I reach out with these completely empty hands and accept the grace freely offered. That "transaction" starts a process of relationship.
Now I'm in this relationship - however I came to it really doesn't matter - and I still bring ... nothing. This gives entry to the biggest, most joyless lie in all of Christianity. Somehow, our own desire (dare I say need) to bring something to the relationship causes us to formulate a bunch of rules, regulations, lists and other impossible standards that we spend more of our relationship time looking for more "transactions" that will bring us some kind of spiritual gain. And I'm not intimating that holiness or obedience are bad things. I'm just saying that they are always secondary - a natural offshoot if you will - of the relationship and done in a responsive way. They don't put stuff in our hands ... those hands remain empty.
Empty hands, my friends, are a good thing. If we look at two Gospel stories (the woman coming into Simon's home and the woman taken in adultery) we find two people terribly aware of their empty hands. And in holding out their hands, they hear words of love such as "forgiven the greatest loves the most" and "neither to I condemn you - go and leave your life of sin". Those are some powerful gifts from the Master - and they leave those women with full hearts and empty hands. These weren't some emotional call from a preacher to walk an aisle. They were people who, when presented with that kindling flame from God, knew they were loved beyond all love they had known before.
As I walk my Crooked Path, may I glory in my empty hands. They are a clear indication that I have a Redeemer who requires nothing tangible of me to keep the relationship pure, giving me the freedom to respond with all I have because of his unending love. He emptied himself so that I could have his fullness - not my own.