What’s In Your Hand?

I was feeling discouraged earlier this week. I had exchanged texts with a couple of college friends. And after reading their updates, I was left feeling a bit unaccomplished. One was lamenting the challenges of being in grad school, working full time, and homeschooling her preschooler. The other was telling me about completing grad school applications, while helping her four kids with distance learning, and starting several businesses.

As I read their achievements, the only thing I could think about was what wasn’t being accomplished in my own life. How many times have I talked about going back to school in the past two years? How many projects have I started with fervor, only to watch them languish in apathy?

It made me think of the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). Each servant was given “according to his ability” (v. 15). The first servant was given five talents and doubled them. The second servant, although he was given fewer talents, doubled them too. And then there was the third servant. I wonder if he compared what he was given with the other two. Did he look at his lowly talent and think, “I don’t have as much as they do. They’re going to accomplish so much more than me. So I don’t even know what the use of trying will be.”?

In Exodus 4:2, God asked Moses, “What’s in your hand?” Moses was trying to disqualify himself from the task God had given him. When we feel unqualified, we usually ask things like, “How am I going to get this done? Where can I go to get the needed training? How much money will it take?” But God simply asks, “What is in your hand?” It’s similar to the question Jesus asked his disciples when He fed the 4,000. The disciples asked, “How can we feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” (Mark 8:4 ESV). But Jesus asked, “How many loaves do you have?” (Mark 8:5 ESV).

We are often distracted by what we don’t have or can’t do. We become like the third servant. We start looking around and seeing our shortcomings. So we choose to bury what we have, either out of fear or a sense of inadequacy. However, the difference between the first two servants and the third was not what they were given, but what they did with what they had.

My two friends have very different circumstances from me. They’ve been given things that I haven’t. It would be easy to sit around and do nothing, simply because I don’t have as much as they do and I may not be able to accomplish as much as they can. But God isn’t asking me to compare what I have with what others have. He’s asking me to use what’s in my hand.

Doing What Only I Can and Watching God Do More

Being a single mom is not an easy task. There are so many challenges that come with it. And so many different messages that are given about how to be a single mom.

I am blessed that my kids’ dad and I have chosen to co-parent. But on days when I’m solely responsible for the kids and I don’t have their father here to do the dad thing, it can be easy to buy into the idea that I need to be Dad too. I don’t want the kids to feel any lack when it comes to parental input. But the reality is, try as I might, I will never be able to fill the role of Dad. It’s not how I was created. And frankly, it’s exhausting to even try.

I am Mom (or Mommy or Mama, depending on the day or the mood)! That’s who I am. From the moment life was given to my babies, I became a mom, their mom. There are things that only I can impart to them. There are lessons that only I can teach. And there are conversations that only I can have.

But I’m often burdened with the idea that the kids are somehow lacking something in me–that I’m simply not enough. The fact of the matter is, I’m not enough and never have been.

When my kids were born and their dad and I were still together, it was easy to believe that between the two of us, we had everything covered. But the reality is, even then, there were gaps in our parenting. And back then, whether we realized it or not, it was just as essential to rely on the Holy Spirit to fill those gaps as it is now. Our shortcomings are highlighted by single parenting, not created by it.

And I guess that’s where I find myself–with more deficiencies than adequacies. The good news is God doesn’t want my self sufficiency. He wants my dependency. Second Corinthians 12:9 says, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (ESV).

I’m reminded of the story of Jesus feeding five thousand with loaves and fish from a little boy (John 6:1-15). Andrew, the disciple who found the boy, said, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many? (v. 9, ESV, emphasis added). That’s often how I feel. Lord, what can you do with the little that I have to offer? But most of us would remember what happens next in the story. Jesus takes the boy’s meager offering and multiplies it to feed five thousand. And at the end of the meal, where everyone ate “…as much as they wanted” (v. 11), the disciples filled twelve baskets with what was leftover.

God isn’t looking for me to be able to do it all. He just wants me to do what only I can do, be the mom He created me to be. Then He will take my paltry contribution and do what only He can do–multiply it and make it more than enough.

There’s a line in an old song my mom used to sing, called “Ordinary People” (originally recorded by Danniebelle Hall) that captures this perfectly:
God uses people who will give Him all
No matter how small your all may seem to you
Because little becomes much
As you place it in the Master’s hand

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