I was away at a board retreat with one of the organizations with whom I work. I was sitting in the garden behind our meeting space during our designated time of silence, a time set aside after the work of the board has been presented to consider what God might be saying in the work before we proceed with business. I was sitting on a bench in the garden staring at the top of a stand of evergreen trees when the line from Marge Piercy’s poem popped into my head. 

Learning to love differently is hard,

love with the hands wide open, love

with the doors banging on their hinges,

the cupboard unlocked

The title of the poem is “To have without holding” and as I sat on the cold stone bench noticing the way the shape of the pine branches drooped towards gravity and reached towards light I had the profound sense that I need to release my grip on something in order to enjoy it more. What could God be wanting me to loosen my grip on? My first thought was “well, lots of things you crazy, control freak” but my second thought was something much simpler. So simple it seemed embarrassingly obvious. But that’s the thing about the Spirit, it rarely ever shows up with the wind howling and clattering the doors, it often shows up and nudges our ridiculous egos, presses on the simplest looking things that will disrupt the whole house we’ve built. 

As I sat there curious about why on earth Marge Piercy and Jesus would be nudging me to have without holding I began thinking of my children. What was it that I was withholding from them? What is it I could release with hands wide open that could lead to a different kind of love? How could I hold with hands wide open in order to receive more than what I could hold?

And so I sat on the bench rolling around the idea that God was nudging me to have without holding my art supplies. Yes, that’s right, art supplies. You see, in the words of the 90’s rock band we like “to keep it separated”–I have my art supplies, lovely, pristine and organized and my girls have their in a wild, quarterly organized heap on their art cart and never the two shall meet. This is part boundaries and partly that I don’t like to share my things, part hangover for childhood scarcity and part selfishness, part financial practicality and stewardship and part particularity and stubbornness. 

And so when I returned home from my trip I thought–why not. Why not share what I was holding on to so tightly and see what happens? 

Here’s the thing, I am sure my girls enjoy having access to my art supplies, but the novelty of using mom’s brightly colored, pristine tubes of acrylic paint and painting on canvas has already worn off. They slid with ease back into paper and watercolors, crayons and color books. The release of my control probably meant something to them beyond access to mom’s really rad art supplies, but I might not ever know what it means to them, they are after all their own unique people with their own unique interior lives. But I do know that to have without holding taught me that when I hold lightly, with palms open I can receive more. No, not in the prosperity gospel sense that when you give your money away, more comes back to you. I most definitely have fewer tubes of paint and canvases, but in the sense that when we let go of that which we are grasping at we leave room to receive something more. I have memories now instead of tubes of paint. We have canvases of art that they will never be able to make just like this again–and we have so many of them that we have given them away to friends and family who proudly display them in their homes. When we love this way we end up receiving more than we could ever hold. 

 

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