#MemoToMe: What's In Your Hand & When You Gon' Use It?

6-minute read


noun  im·per·fec·tion \ˌim-pər-ˈfek-shən\

  • 1:  the quality or state of having faults or defects :  lack of perfection

  • 2:  a small flaw or fault

 Photo by  Wilsar Johnson

If you've been following me for any length of time, you know that 'beauty in the imperfections' is a theme I love. As someone who has screwed up numerous times, fallen prey to low self-esteem, and dwelt on my flaws more than my gifts - exploring the theme of beauty in our imperfections has been a consistent breath of fresh air as I journey through life. It gives me the courage to try and fail and try again; to acknowledge my flaws and partner with God in correcting mistakes; and look at my failed attempts at any number of things in a new way.

As a creative, there is the tendency to crumble up and toss aside anything that does not seem immediately 'perfect' in the moment.  There is also the tendency to overlook what gifts I'm working with, striving to be like someone else who seems to do it so much better than me.  There is the tendency to deem my abilities as nothing and reach for more.

Recently, one particular Bible story landed in my life in a way it never did when I heard it growing up.  For those who aren't religious, don't leave! I promise, it's practical and I'll only be a minute recounting it.

This is part of Moses's story. Y'all remember the great deliverer. Even if you never read the Bible version I know your parents or grandparents put The Ten Commandments on Easter weekend. The Hebrew baby, raised as Egyptian royalty who eventually realized he was a Hebrew and that he was oppressing his own people. He fled Egypt, met God and was having trouble accepting the fact that God was calling him to go back to Egypt and free his people. God was like, "Mo... I got you, go back to Egypt, tell Pharoah to let my people go and be out."  And Moses was like,

Then Moses answered and said, “But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you.’ ”

So the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?”

He said, “A rod.”

And He said, “Cast it on the ground.” So he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail” (and he reached out his hand and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand), that they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.”

Furthermore the Lord said to him, “Now put your hand in your bosom.” And he put his hand in his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous, like snow.

And He said, “Put your hand in your bosom again.” So he put his hand in his bosom again, and drew it out of his bosom, and behold, it was restored like his other flesh.

“Then it will be, if they do not believe you, nor heed the message of the first sign, that they may believe the message of the latter sign. And it shall be, if they do not believe even these two signs, or listen to your voice, that you shall take water from the river and pour it on the dry land. The water which you take from the river will become blood on the dry land.”

Then Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”

So the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.”

But he said, “O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send.”
— Exodus 4:1-13

Moses was so freaked out, he actually ran from the miracle his own hand (powered by God) created. He could not, for the life of him, see his own value even with God himself trying to show him.  He deemed what he held in his hand as nothing. He eventually did go back to Egypt and set the Israelites free but only after God promised to send Aaron, his brother, with him. 

This reminds me of the times in my life when I don't value what God placed in me.  I toss aside the things that make me unique and capable, scared to death that it isn't enough, that I am somehow at a deficit by default.  And in those moments God is calling to me, asking me, "What's in your hand?"

How Do You See What You've Got?

In the photo above, I was standing in the Hirshorn Museum trying to decide what this piece of art in front of me meant to me. Denzel Washington once said, "You'll get out of it what you bring to it" when asked what he wanted audiences to come away with from his 2016 film, "Magnificent Seven".  That has stuck with me since I saw the film.  It makes me slow down and really consider everything I encounter. How do I connect with this art, this person, this situation, this weather, this place? What have I experienced that will connect me? How do I use that connection?

I originally thought of the ruins of war being stowed away when I looked at this piece.  Art and rubble. Broken sculptures. A chipped bust. An arm. A torso. Broken pieces stashed away to be forgotten. But after an eye-opening conversation with my good friend, photographer Wilsar Johnson, I saw this piece as an homage to all our attempts at  (or resistance to - come on, Moses) our callings/purpose/art.  The "failed" attempts or non-attempts at creating or walking out something of substance, something that will stand the test of time, transform lives and garner acclaim.  The things we junk, while others, if they could dig through our trash, would mount on their walls or their mantles.

Sometimes our attempts are the most beautiful things we can create and we toss them away, out of sight, longing to create something perfect when the imperfections are the beautiful part.

Listen, Moses's inadequacies were exactly what made him the perfect candidate to partner with God in creating a historic miracle.  He was not eloquent or brave on his own but he became everything he needed to be to everyone who needed him once he answered God's call. God equipped him with supernatural ability simply because he said "Yes."

It's no different for us as creators, dreamers, believers, artists. I believe that the moment we give an unconditional "Yes" to our destiny, we'll see what incredible things we're holding. We won't hide our gifts, our art, our lights under a basket. We'll open our hands and give everything we've got to living out our calling, imperfections and all.  We'll excavate our life experiences and see what we bring to every situation we encounter.  And with the help of the divine, the world and every living, breathing being in it will be better for it.