The Ups and Downs of Hand-Me-Downs

The Ups and Downs of Hand-Me-Downs

I grew up on hand-me-downs. 

There were the hand-me-down clothes, the hand-me-down dolls (anyone else remember old, matted doll hair that makes your skin crawl?), the hand-me-down bikes. Because my feet were the size of Goliath’s, I did mostly escape the hand-me-down shoes.

I was the youngest in a family of six. By the time I came along, our home basically ran on auto-pilot, a well-oiled machine that my five older siblings had helped set. They often accuse me of being the last one, the spoiled one, and they might be a bit right. I didn’t have to set any new trends, break any new ground. Entering different stages did not rock the boat, for the boat had already been rocked so many times that it was used to rough waters.

I found my way through hand-me-downs.

Manners were handed down, family culture handed down, relational etiquette passed off through example from one Mullet to the next. 

And then the sweetest hand-me-down of all: an old, timeless faith.

The older I get, the more grateful I am for the heritage that stretches on behind me. For the generations of Jesus-followers who laid the path for my walking in Christ. I know many, many people who would give their right arm for the kind of familial support that I totally take for granted. I don’t know how God has seen fit to give me this gift, but He has, and I am forever grateful. 

A hand-me-down faith is a beautiful thing. But it cannot stay a hand-me-down.

It must become mine. Not my sister’s, not my mom’s, not my neighbor’s. My own.

There’s another level of hand-me-down faith that I have been thinking about lately. And it’s an especially challenging ditch to avoid in our information age.

Here’s the question I’ve been considering:

Is my faith my own, or am I claiming the faith of my favorite podcast host? Author? Musician?

Please don’t hear me wrong: I am totally advocating for good podcasts, books, and music to stir us to deeper communion with God. But that’s just it: it needs to stir US to deeper communion, not offer some sort of second-hand experience where we can get our spirits massaged, essentially replacing the true search of our own hearts with the search of another’s. 

That’s a hand-me-down faith that we need to run from.

But then there’s a hand-me-down faith that we need to embrace.

It’s called passing it on. Handing it down. 

In the Old Testament, I am blown away by God’s insistence to pass on the stories of his faithfulness to the generations that follow behind us. Clearly, it’s a big deal to him. In the New Testament, we see God giving a new push: spread the good news of redemption. Again and again, He’s asking us to step out and pass on the greatest story ever imagined.

He’s asking us to hand it down. 

I was at an Andrew Peterson concert a number of years ago when he said something that felt deeply profound to me. He was encouraging all of us there that we need to be intentional about telling others the work God is doing in our hearts, because maybe God isn’t revealing that side of Himself to them, maybe that’s a part of God we’re seeing right now through our exact circumstances and that is not meant to be only for us. It’s for us all.

It’s meant to become a hand-me-down.

In 1 Corinthians 12:7, Paul writes that the gifts the Spirit gives are “for the common good.” I think that also refers to the things we’re learning. They are meant to be passed on. To become hand-me-downs.

So, let’s avoid taking a hand-me-down faith as our own, but let’s give the hand-me-downs freely.  In this, our own hearts are strengthened and the body of Christ is edified.

Has there been a specific person in your life who has faithfully handed-down a faith to you?  How could you honor that person today? 

Photo by Volha Flaxeco on Unsplash

2 Comments

  1. Danielle Wheeler March 3, 2021

    “it needs to stir US to deeper communion, not offer some sort of second-hand experience where we can get our spirits massaged” YES and AMEN! So true.

    Thank you, Maria, for beautifully pointing out both the gifts and the curses involved with hand-me-down faith.

    1. Maria Mullet March 3, 2021

      Thanks for this comment, Danielle! This has been a good topic for me to consider – the hard part of it is in light of some disappointments we are all facing in stories surrounding people we’ve always looked up to as leaders of faith. I’m grateful that God’s word will not return void!

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