am a multitasker. I never just
watch TV: I knit, pay bills, needlepoint, or even read. I never just
go on errands: I listen to audio books, brainstorm ideas, make mental
lists, and think through problems.
I pride myself on efficiency. I
rarely leave a room without taking something with me that needs to go
elsewhere. I rarely have one thought at a time, but two.
This morning I began to
reconsider my ways.
I was at my coffee pot—a coffee
maker with a carafe. My habit is to bring the full carafe into my
office so I can refill my cup there (it’s more efficient that way, you
know?) This morning I picked up a clean coffee cup, some extra
sweetener, and the carafe, then closed a cabinet drawer with my hip
because I had no hands free.
Suddenly, it hit me: I
go through life with my hand’s full.
Oddly, the thought did not come
as a compliment but as a slap.
How could that be? How could a
trait I’d always considered an attribute prick my conscience as a
I set the coffee supplies on my
desk—dropping two packets of sweetener on the floor in the process—then
sank into my work chair.
I turned my hands palms up. My
empty hands. Surely doing many things at once was a good thing. After
all, isn’t the centuries-old idiom true: “Idle hands are the devil’s
Yet looking at my open hands I
realized the gesture was a natural display of supplication and worship.
On impulse, I picked up my coffee mug with one hand and a pen in the
other. I looked at my hands again.
The supplication and worship
But it was good to work. “If a
man is lazy, the rafters sag; if his hands are idle, the house leaks”
(Eccl. 10:18 NIV). And one of my favorites, “Be strong and do the work”
(1 Chron. 28:10b NIV).
But if work and being busy had
become my focus . . . if I always kept my hands full . . .
I took out my Bible, looking up
“Hands” in the concordance. Bad words were associated with hands: idle,
lazy, evil. But also good connotations were included:
train my hands, lay their hands, lift his hands, wash their hands, clap
your hands. All the negative phrases focused on us.
All the positive phrases focused on God.
remembered the story Robert
Benson shared in his book, Living Prayer. He told
of his time with some monks. He noticed their serenity and asked them
about it. They explained it this way: “When we are walking, we are
walking. When we are working, we are working . . .”
By being efficient, making
multitasking an art form, and keeping my hands full, was I doing
I put the mug and pen down and
made my hands free again—free to surrender, worship, ask, receive, and
pray. They were free of the accoutrements of this world and open to the
blessings of the next.
I was reminded that there is a
balance between busy and open hands. What we accomplish when our hands
are full is worth much more if we let go, and let God be a part of it.
Pray and perform. Worship and work. Surrender and succeed. Adore and
“Unless the LORD builds the
house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the
city, the watchmen stand guard in vain (Ps. 127:1 NIV); “Whatever you
do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for
men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord
as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Col. 3:23–24 NIV).
Let us rest in the palm of His