My hands, our hands, God’s hands

A story is told about a young boy who wanted to test a sage. He held a small little bird in his two cusped hands and said to the sage: “Is this little bird dead or alive?” In his mind he thought: If the sage says “dead” then he will simply open his hand and allow the bird to fly away. If the sage says “alive”, he will crush the little bird. The sage listened to his question and contemplated for a while. Then she answered: “Son, whether the bird is alive or dead, is in your hands”.


There is a chorus that has the words: “my life is in your hands”. If one could change this chorus and sing “my life is in OUR hands”, this would fundamentally change the song from “God, it is all in your hands… I am powerless” to “God, thank you for empowering me with your Spirit … I accept to work with you”.

 It seems like a small change, simply removing a “y”. But the decision to do so and say “Farewell to innocence” (the title of Dr Allan Boesak’s first book), would mean that we take co-responsibility for our life together. I am not simply going to blame God or put all responsibility for whatever happens on God, but will ask God to help me discern my role.


During apartheid in South Africa, this is what some of us did. Some Kairos theologians then wrote very clearly that we should not abuse religious language and thereby disempower ourselves and leave everything up to God. In fact, it would be anti- Biblical. The God of the Bible chose partners: God chose Moses, and David and Naomi and Ruth and Hannah and the other prophets. God chose to become human and then chose disciples and apostles to work with. Why would this God change and suddenly start working by God-self? It sounds religious or pious or it sounds as if you deeply trust in God alone when you say: it is all in God’s hands. But it is a distortion and fundamentally untrue as God always trusts us first. Trust and faith and hope and love are always God’s initiative but we twist things merely to sound pious. And in the process, we absolve ourselves of responsibility.


Our lives are in God’s hands AND in our hands. Simunye. We are one. That is our deepest identity. Because that is who we are and where our inner compass says we should go to enter the kindom of heaven, we should orientate ourselves towards unity.

The biggest challenge in our world right now is division. And we know: “A house divided will fall.” Our house is crumbling in front of our eyes. We can only save our house if we work together. But instead we follow the chorus: “you in your small corner and I in mine”. Our faith has become about me, myself and I first.

It is in the interest of violent and selfish forces to encourage this division. The Holy Spirit that unites us and helps us to understand each other even if we speak different languages, is much more powerful than the forces that seek to divide us. If we unite with the Holy Spirit, we can envisage an end to disease, to war, hunger and superiority. If we do not unite with this Spirit of unity, we are co-creators of our own end. By placing all the burden on God and distancing ourselves from God’s empowering spirit, we are contributing to our division and demise.


This is not who we are and who we have been created to be. It is past time to let the scales fall off our eyes, see these seemingly innocent choruses and powerful divisive forces for what they are, decide to change it and start singing a new song. It is in our hands …

Questions for individual contemplation and small group discussion

  1. Does God want to work alone or does God want partnership and unity with us?
  2. If God wants partnership with us, am I (are we) ready to partner with God, to dance with God, albeit tentatively?
  3. Are there perspectives that I would need to let go of to truly partner with God? If so, name one or two.
  4. What would co-operation and unity look like today in our churches and in our world? What role do I have to ensure there is more unity and co-operation?


God of unity
Forgive me if I consciously or unconsciously placed all of life's burdens on you
And recrucified you
And refused to take co-response-ability
 Heal my faith, hope and love
To become more united with you
So that together we may build your beloved community of beauty, truth and joy
For Christ's sake we pray this.

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