Empty handed

“Take nothing with you” Jesus command to those he sent out ahead of him. Empty. No resources. It seems madness, and something we very rarely, if ever, do. On any level. If we can help it, that is. Like the proverbial girl guide/scout, we go prepared. Instilled us from childhood. And then one day, circumstances tip us on our faces, and we are vulnerable. Dependent on others, and it isn’t a comfortable feeling. At least not for an independent person like me. Recently I found myself stranded in another country, with no passport, credit card, or means to keep body and soul together. Not a good place to be! If you don’t have a passport, you can’t fly, even within Europe, especially if you have no other means of identification. Thankfully for me, before they caught their plane, the friends travelling with me emptied their pockets, and gave me what spare cash they could. This enabled me (eventually) after an adrenaline fueled day, to get an emergency passport and another flight home, late that night. Just. I had to sit and count out my euros more than once to make sure I could commit to booking a flight, and several rail and bus tickets, and have enough to stump up for the passport. (€113) I did. But nothing left. I had to ask the British Consulate if they had an emergency fund that could give me a little money in order to eat and drink.
“Spare any change for a cup of tea?” the plaintive request from the person on the street, and now it was my turn. I would much rather not have asked, but I had been running from pillar to post, and I was hot and tired, and hungry. And there was nothing on the horizon for a very long time. It was a humbling and salutary experience, I won’t forget in a hurry. Walking around a large European city with a few euros in my pocket to my name, was another. My experience was temporary, and I was very conscious of that too. For others it is a daily reality.
There are many ways we can be thrown on others care. I have known what it is to be seriously ill, and so weak and incapacitated that I could do little or nothing for myself and had to ask for everything. Or wait for someone to notice. It was an equally humbling experience. But good for me. Allowed me to step in other’s shoes. It made me an infinitely more empathetic nurse, and I thought I was pretty tuned into patients needs before that. I am sure it will be a valuable experience in my future ministry as a priest.
I think Jesus knew that his disciples needed to go out with nothing. They didn’t go as ‘fixers’ or ‘providers’ or even the ones with all the ideas. They had to go out and learn to receive. They had to depend on God for everything, spiritual and temporal. They had to be beggars of a sort. No security back up plan. I don’t imagine it was comfortable, but it was a foundational learning curve for when they would later scatter across the world and turn it upside down. Empty handed. I remember a song by John Pantry many years ago. A song writer I once knew, said that song lyrics, devoid of music read like bad poetry, but I will quote the words anyway:

Empty handed.
That is how he wanted me.
He commanded,
I left my own plans at His feet,
’til I had nothing, nothing of my own,
But then He filled my life to overflowing.

Oh how I wanted to be godly.
Oh the things I planned that I would do for good.
But my life was so full with the plans of my own,
I couldn’t see the plans He had for me.

He lived among us, and never owned much,
And laid aside His life to do God’s will.
All we ever put in his hands
Was the cross He bore,
And the nails that tore.

Empty handed.
That is how He wanted me.
He commanded I left my own plans at his feet,
’til I had nothing, nothing of my own,
But then He filled my life to overflowing.

Sounds a bit like this?

Philippians 2:5 (MSG)
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Not much you can add to that. Nothing, in fact.

3 thoughts on “Empty handed

  1. Amazing song this! The Lord reminded me of the chorus just last week. I’ve been meditating on it since in song. Lv to sing/record it soon. The world needs to hear this message of hope. There is a light at the end of the tunnel! Any objection? God bless you!


  2. I first heard John sing this at the Filey Christian convention in the 1970’s and it has been a constant challenge to me ever since. How true the words are and an ongoing reminder that it is only when we come empty handed God fills our lives to overflowing


  3. so blessed to have found this. I wrote recently about being a nobody with nothing is just right so you have the Someone with everything. arriving as no-body leaves space for us to be His-body. no – thing leaves space for His things. I love how you draw out receiving and participating nstead of beleiving and faith.:)


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