Quite a few years ago now, I was asked to speak at a gathering of women of faith by a good friend who was familiar with my poetry and my love of sharing my faith. I was both excited and nervous about this talk, as it was not something I had ever done before. Two weeks before the big day I broke my leg, a somewhat minor break, but it was an excuse if I was looking for one to skip the event, and hide from my call, and never step out there. I didn’t hide, and I am thankful for the blessings of courage and friendship that made the event both possible and positive.
Now after I agreed to speak, I was given the topic of hands to work into my talk, and of course I could instantly see the hand of God in the events of my life to that point. What I have discovered, through years of writing, prayer and faith, is that I can’t ignore God when He wants me to create something, He is persistent and I am blessed by the gift. So, here is an edited version of that talk, I hope it blesses those of you who read it.
So, there I was thinking about hands, not just as tools to hold things, but more as gifts from God. I am going to ask you to indulge me for a moment and look at your hands, tops and palms. If you are like me, your hands may have a few small scars, some freckles or other marks unique to you. I’m not just talking about your fingerprints here. Perhaps you can see where your blood flows; maybe your nails are painted, maybe not. You may wear a ring or two. When I glance at my wedding ring I am reminded of my husband and our family, of our life together. Just playing with my ring absent mindedly sometimes, can take me back to our wedding day, and I find myself thinking about how blessed I am.
They say the eyes are windows to the soul, well then I believe that your hands can tell your life story, after all a lot of your life is reflected in your hands. I am not talking about reading your palm here; your hands speak of your hobbies, and the work of your life. I have spent much of my life writing; for school and for pleasure, my hand has a permanent mark on the finger that holds my pen when I write. If you garden or sew, I am sure that your hands show sign of these hobbies.
When I look at my hands I am reminded of all the times they have been blessed to hold onto another hand. I remember how my children, as infants, would touch my face with their little hands. How they would reach their hands up for me to hold them. I can feel the warmth of my child’s hand in my own. I can remember the moment when my husband slipped a ring on my finger and we joined our lives into one. When I look at my hands I see my mother’s hands and my sister’s as we all have the same crooked pinkie. Our hands, what we do with them tells a lot about who we are.
When my oldest son was about 7, he is now almost 20; he and I had a very deep conversation about love. As I tucked him into bed, we’d prayed and snuggled, I gave him his sleep sound kisses across his forehead. The room was dark, and I said, “I love you,” and my son faltered.
“Mom,” he said, “I don’t know if I love you.” I’m sure you can imagine how I felt, for that one brief moment, but then he added, “I’m not sure I know what love is.”
Well, I will admit, I probably sighed from relief, while this might not have been the simplest conversation ever; it was also not going to be the hardest.
So, we talked about love. I asked him if he had been thinking about this long, and he admitted that he had been worrying about this for a couple of weeks, but he was afraid it would hurt me to say it, so he had silently worried to himself.
I explained that he had shown love, he had suffered stress and worry to save my feelings, because he loved me.
This allowed me the chance to talk about love, not just as a feeling, but as an act. The act of loving, of giving of yourself, of sacrificing some part of you for another. God, of course, is the best example of this kind of love; we see it throughout the Bible. In John 3:16, we are reminded of that love. The truest form of love is not passive. God acted! He loved us, He continues to love us, and not just passively. He nudges us, and others to be His children, He nudges us back onto that path. I know as a mother, I have often nudged my children. It is that gentle act of directing that I am speaking of. Love, is not just a feeling, it is what we do when we love that defines us.
People use the image of a potter and clay to describe our relationship with God. This is such a great image, that we see it in a few places: Isaiah 64:8, Jeremiah 18:6 and in Romans 9:21, we see that the potter makes the choice of what the clay will be. A potter uses his hands to mold clay into the vessel he sees. God molds us; we spend our whole lives being molded as He sculpts us. Working with clay is messy work, clay must be kept moist to be worked, and the potter must use just the right amount of pressure to get the clay to take the desired form. I wonder how many times I have been close to falling off the wheel, or to drying out and cracking. Yet, God continues to work me, to mold me. He will not stop working on me, ever. Of course, He has the ability to correct my flaws, to fix me. He is the potter after all. His hands again.
He is the Father, He nudges us gently to keep us on the path. Sometimes a father must take a child’s hand to lead them to safety. Just as a shepherd will direct his flock. This is an active love, not a passive love. Think about the good shepherd of Psalm 23, in that first line, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want,’ He actively cares for His sheep. We continue to see the shepherd throughout the Bible. He cares for us, endlessly tending to us, saving us from all harm, even dangers of our own making. Read John 10:11-18, this is a shepherd who is active in His care for His sheep. Good news, we are His sheep and He continues to be active in our care. He was, is and always will be our Shepherd.
Active love, how do you show, share and give love?
Look at your hands.
Imagine the hands of a 30 year old carpenter, a young man who had spent years carrying wood. As a child he probably climbed trees, picked up stones, skinned his hands and knees when he stumbled. He would have held the hand of his mother when they walked together. Those hands reached out to invite others to travel with Him. Those hands took water from a woman at a well, and reached out to help others. Those same hands healed the sick and raised the dead. His hands held small children on His knee, they brushed the dust from His robes.
It was the hands of that same carpenter that washed the feet of His disciples, and broke the bread and passed the wine. Those calloused and tanned hands did so much, and yet never reached out to stop those who mistreated Him, when He was beaten for our sins.
The hands of a simple man, a carpenter, a teacher, our Lord and Savior.
Those hands, so much like our own, carried a rough hewn cross through a dusty desert town and up a rugged hill. Those hands were pierced with nails as He was hung upon that cross. When Jesus came back He showed the disciples the holes in His hands. Those hands told a story, a story about love and sacrifice. A story about salvation, my salvation and your salvation. Those hands continue to reach out for you and me today.
Look at your hands, what story do they tell?
I didn’t grow up going to Church; for a lot of my life my relationship with God was quite superficial. I would bring my hands together and pray, some memorized verse I’d learned somewhere. It was a start, but it was never deep enough. The Bible had not been placed in my hands as a child, and I did not pick it up until I was almost 30. I had a vague awareness of who God was, but I did not know Him, there was no relationship there.
I prayed more fervently when I was expecting my first child. Many people who know me know about Jade, but there are more people who do not know about her. Jade passed away at the end of October in 2010, just 5 days before turning 22. Jade was born with an unknown disability that caused her to be completely developmentally disabled. She was total care for her entire life. She was reliant on others to meet her every need, she had to be fed, bathed, clothed, she wore diapers and was in a wheelchair, her entire life. Total care, most people forget soon after their infants become toddlers what total care means. For us, Jade was so much like a newborn for her entire life.
Jade, though, reflects God in ways most people never can. It was through mothering her that I learned to know God better. I realized how superficial my relationship had been. I learned about love; the act, not just the feeling. Being Jade’s mother, I learned to pray, really pray. At first my prayers were still fairly simple, I would just fold my hands together, and pray. Then I grew as a mom, and as a Christian, and so did my prayers.
Did I ask God to heal her? Yes, but I also accepted that it was His will, and not my own that mattered.
Did He heal her? No, He healed me.
He reached into my heart and into my life and He healed me. Funny thing was, I didn’t even know how much I needed healing until I felt His touch. It wasn’t a quick job, but God is both persistent and patient. He kept at it, and I grew in faith.
God touched me, He healed me and He led me.
My daughter brought me to a place where there were only two choices, decide what to believe. Was she a blessing or a curse?
I chose to believe that God had a lot more faith in me than I had ever shown in Him. He trusted that I would see His love in the gift of her life, and I did. I am grateful that He had faith in me enough to trust me with Jade. Through mothering her, I came to know and trust God, and I came to know and trust myself as well. Since then He has continued to touch my life, and I am much more accepting of His touch today than I was all those years ago. I invite Him to touch my life, and look forward to seeing where He will nudge me next.
Do you invite Him to touch your life?
When you gaze at the cross, or when you receive communion; do you feel His touch? I’d like you to imagine the cross for a moment, can you see Him up there, hands pierced, arms stretched wide? He is open, waiting for us. He still stops to reach out with those same hands to save us, to lead us, to teach us. When we bring our hands together to pray, He opens His hands to answer. In the Bible we can read Psalm 103:11-13 and know that God has removed our sins from us. Jesus took our sins with Him to that cross, look at the cross, those nails that pierced His hands, they hold our sins there. We are saved because we are loved, that was and is an active love.
Have you ever had a splinter in your hand, and it hurt so much your eyes watered? Nails pierced His hands for us. Blistered from working in the yard? He carried that cross through town, after He had been beaten. His sacrifice reminds us, that there is no sacrifice that we can ever make that will bridge the gap, only He could do that, and He did. Do you ever wonder why? Love.
What are your hands doing? Look at your hands, what story do they tell? Can you see your life in your hands? Can others? Do your hands reflect His glory? Do they work for Him or for you?
His hands, your hands, our hands, all working together can change the world. With our hands we can express love and we can care for others. We can heal people, lift up people, and serve people. With our hands we can show direction, teach about life, prepare food, write a poem or a kind note, climb a mountain. He was held tightly to the cross by the hands of men, while other hands hammered the nails. He was slapped by hands, pushed by hands and killed by hands. But, remember, it was hands that gently lowered Him from the cross, hands that wrapped Him, hands that prepared the oils that would anoint Him.
Hands that saved us from death. He is reaching out still, to each of us.
He has given each of us, some skill, some desire, some ability, that we can use to fulfill His will.
So, ask yourself…
What will your hands do this week to further His kingdom, to fulfill His will?
What will your hands do to make a difference? To change the world?
Will you reach out to others, or keep them folded on your lap?
You can do so much with your hands, all you need to do is try.
God blesses us, gives us gifts and opportunities to serve Him. It is His will that we will serve Him, but he gave us free will, which means we must decide what we will do. Just as I decided to thank God for my daughter.
When I was expecting our third child, our older son Q was so excited about being a big brother. Every night he prayed for twins, then when I had an ultrasound he discovered that we were only having one baby, not the twins he had been praying for.
Q asked why God had not given him the twins he’d prayed for, and we talked about God doing what was best for us, that He alone knew what was best and that He had elected to place only one child into my womb. That night Q had a choice to make, he could accept God’s will cheerfully or with disappointment. His prayer went like this, “Oh, and God, I was only joking about the twins.” God’s will and the faith of a child, how simple the combination.
We choose to follow God’s will or not. We choose what kind of Christian we will be, active or passive. We know what kind of Savior we have, and we know what He wants. We can choose to be active, we can choose to be loving and we can do good works.