Sunday, June 27, 2010


There is something peculiarly fascinating about hands. It may seem like an odd thing to be interested in (and you’d be right, but I can’t help myself in this case), but if you take a minute to think about it, you’ll realize how our hands are integral to so many aspects of humanity.

Our identity as humans, a unique species, is partly determined by our hands, our opposable thumbs. Life is sustained through the work of the hands- the tilling of the soil, sowing of the seed, the reaping of the harvest, the preparation of a meal, and the final act of consuming food. It is our hands that we use to demonstrate compassion when we hold one another, and love when we lace our fingers between those of another. Although the years may have stolen much of gravity and meaning it used to signify, the shaking of hands still symbolizes mutual trust and agreement. Soldiers show their solidarity and respect through a solemn salute. Our hands, placed over our hearts, show our patriotism and pride in our country when the Pledge of Allegiance is recited or the Anthem sang. In a wedding ceremony, putting a diamond ring or gold band on someone’s hand promises forever and pledges all you have to that person. Agitated rush-hour drivers and Little League coaches communicate with their hands (obviously conveying vastly different messages). The hands that a little boy uses to pick dandelions and built forts out of blankets may in years to come be used to pull triggers in Afghanistan. It is with our hands that we create and capture, with paint and pencil, with camera and clay. With their hands the members of an orchestra beckon life and beauty out of wood and strings and brass and keys. We use our hands to wipe away tears and shower applause on people we celebrate. For better or for worse, we can convey comfort and kindness, crudeness and callous attitudes, affirmation and affection, malice and mourning, brotherhood and belonging, lust and love…all with our hands.

Often people fail to realize that while we are able to use our hands to communicate in so many ways, our hands are doing some communication of their own. You see, your hands tell stories. A left hand that houses a single, simple band of metal on a certain finger can inform the world that your heart has been claimed and you’re off the market. Wrinkly, time-weathered hands whisper of a long life, a map of the past etched into them, having been artfully carved by life throughout the decades. Hand that wear worn out cuticles and ragged fingernails, covered in teeth-marks and chewed to the quick, stutter about a life that is marked with anxiety and fear, nervousness and panic and stress. Hands weighted down with ostentatious jewelry and expensive French manicures declare a life defined by wealth and decadence and high society. There is no mistaking the calloused, leathery, dirt-caked hands of a farmer, quietly speaking of humility and hard work, perseverance and dedication. Knuckles wrapped in bloody bandages boast to the world of a life spent in the ring, defined by uppercuts and knockouts, all in pursuit of a championship belt. Hands bound together by steel circles, with wrists encircled in the hem of orange sleeves, scream of a life that will at least in part be spent in an eight-foot wide cell. Those latex gloved hands that you permit to cut open your body in order to save it, they voice confidence and assurance, recalling years of schooling and residency and practice, more comfortable with a scalpel to hold than without.

My hands are nothing special. I had always wished for the delicate, long-fingered hands of a pianist, with dainty fingernails and undeniable grace. Instead, I have wide hands with stubby fingers. My fingernails are always cut short to aid my attempts to play my guitar. I have a faint scar running down each thumb, and together my hands have a total of four freckles. When I remember to put it on after I shower, a simple gold ring rests on my right hand. They are not beautiful hands, but they have stories (I’m rather glad my hands can’t talk, actually). There is one thing though, that I like about my hands. It isn’t so much about my hands as the hands that are linked to my own. These hands that hold mine pulled me out of the storm that was my past and lead me toward the brilliant light which is my future. These hands are strong and sure, confident and capable. These hands have wiped away tears, washed feet, and carried a wooden beam up the hill called Calvary. There is a hole in each of these hands, a place where my sin was struck down and His love streamed out. These hands speak of service and sacrifice, loyalty and love. These are the hands that are holding my life and my heart. These are the hands of Jesus, and they are the most beautiful hands I know.