By Brittany Small

Learning to Live Open-Handedly

“Brittany, are you going to Urbana?” asked my senior small group leader.

“I don’t know. It’s a lot of money, but I might sign up later,” I responded. That was freshman year. I never did sign up.

Three years later, “Brittany, are you going to Urbana?” asked my staff-member. I replied, “Yeah, I’m all signed up!” 

I went and God changed my life.

So what changed?

Me. God started teaching me something in college. He started to show me areas of my life where I walked around with my fists clenched tight. Clenched around my money when I wasn’t willing to financially invest in my spiritual life but willing to go out to eat instead. Clenched around my time when I wasn’t willing to serve others but willing to sleep in or hang out with friends instead. Clenched around my comfort when I wasn’t willing to be truly vulnerable with others but expected them to be vulnerable with me.

God had begun to make me increasingly aware of my often unconscious (and hypocritical!) desire to keep my hands clenched around things that ultimately served me.

But awareness is only the first step in trying to make a change.

When I went to Urbana 09 as a senior, I was debating if I should go into ministry—a career change that seemed to take away everything my clenched fists held on to so tightly. I didn’t want to fully commit to ministry because I was scared. Scared of losing the things that I thought were important for a college graduate to have: money, time and comfort (but mostly money).

But on the evening a call was made to consider committing to a short or long term missions project, I remember sitting on the floor of the Edwards Jones Dome surrounded by 18,000 people and feeling like God was speaking directly to me:  “Brittany, are you going to let go? Will you let go for me?” 

Action is the final step in trying to make a change.

So I stood up and opened my hands that night. I hesitantly told God that He could have my money, my time and my comfort. Another three years later, I’m going to Urbana 12 as an InterVarsity staff member, and along the way God has shown me what it looks like to live life a little more open-handedly. To tithe generously from my meager salary out of joy instead of obligation. To serve regularly at my local church where most everyone is older and married and I’m…well, not. To authentically invest in the relationships God has given me when they’re difficult and time-consuming.

The most important things for a college graduate to have aren’t anything like I was told or imagined. But I’m looking forward to God continuing his work in peeling back my clenched fingers (sometimes slowly, one by one!) and challenging me to step into new things at Urbana 12.

How will you learn to live your life a little more open-handedly this year? Hint: Urbana 12 is a good place to start. Sign up now before the price goes up July 1.

Brittany Small is an InterVarsity Campus Staff Member at her alma mater, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she graduated with a journalism and communications degree. She blogs on ministry at

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