Hands

I still remember the first time. It was a revelation. I had only really known the prayer kind. Where you take each others’ in a circle and release soon after the ‘amen’. I knew what it was like to interlace only my own; and they fit in the way two corresponding parts, of the same size, general shape, strength and texture will. But the first time it happened I was surprised. Surprised in the way we are when we realize people are truly, deeply, profoundly different from us. Slender where I am broad, soft where I am callused, warm and still strong, but with a dexterity of a different sort than my own.

But beyond physical qualities, what was truly new, truly novel was that they were controlled by an Other. They had a distinct way of movement, they bent a little differently and pulsed to a different rhythm. Maybe what was so moving about it all was that here, finally, was some proof. I’m not sure about you but sometimes I think I am self-centered enough to really (but subconsciously of course) fear that everyone else is just a projection of my mind. That everyone and everything exists only in my head — because like anyone, I only experience my own thoughts; and for all I know people cease to exist as soon as I leave the room… But here was something completely Other, that moved and pushed in unexpected ways. Something to hold that was not my own and to give some assurance, that perhaps, in the set of substantial things, “I” was not alone.

Our feet get us places, but our hands “Do” when we get there. Of all the things we use, what vast majority of them are manipulated solely by our hands? And how many important ones could we use if we did not have them?

He had real hands, you know. Before he was born they touched Jacob’s hip and made him Israel, the limping father. When he was a baby they wrapped around his parents’ fingers and relayed sensory information to his mind, giving shape and texture to his (yes, his) world. They unrolled the scroll which he precociously read. They toughened as he learned his trade, held his saw and hammer and made him a living. They bled when he was cut and ached at the end of a long day’s work. They touched lepers and spread mud on the blind. They held his food, brought drink to his mouth, and patted his little ones on the head. His hands grasped the whip of cords and the edges of the moneychangers’ tables. They clasped in prayer and wiped the blood from his cheeks. They carried the cross, they were bound. And they were held up, spread wide and pierced, then he died.

Did your hands roll the stone away? Did they lift Peter’s chin when you called him back to tend your flock? They prepared the fish and the hot bread… and you say that now they catch every tear, that they hold the world and guide the blind. What great fortune for us, to leave our hearts in the most capable of hands. The strongest and yet the gentlest.

I read that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert, to become world class at something. Be it music or sports or computer programming, 10,000 hours seems to be the magic number. Nobody at the top of their field has spent less time to get to where they are. It makes me wonder how many hours I have spent in loving others. If I spent 10,000 of them doing that, what would happen? I have a hard time even thinking of others even half an hour out of the day. It seems I have quite a ways to go…

I had one of those moments tonight. A “Jesus, you shouldn’t have died for me” moment. I’ve probably had a few before. I know better than to second guess him, and I guess in a way that statement is the definition of grace: he shouldn’t have, but he did, he did and it worked and now we are with him. My being rails against the cruel nature of the world. There is so much suffering. We were talking to Betty at the top of the stairs tonight and heard 7 or 8 gunshots. When we went outside cops had closed off the street a block over… We didn’t see what happened, but it was  just so close. God, you died for this? I am afraid to ask for justice, and even for beauty (for where does someone broken and messy like I am fit in a beautiful world?), and I wonder what kind of painful process is in store for us. We like to speak as if glory coming will be pleasant. Of course it will be Good, and we will have joy in the end… but is there any question that the cleansing of the entire world will involve anything but immense pain and a great volume of tears? Glory will come in power and crush all things that were never meant to last. Think about it, how many of the thing we love can be shaken? We bind ourselves to worldly things and when he comes in glory, it will tear. Even the righting of one inter-human relationship costs so much… and there are billions to be made right. Anyways, I thought of such things and I thought: “Jesus, I am sorry that I have cried out against injustice and yet contributed to the pain.” See, in my perverted heart I store up my “good deeds” and sometimes will cash them in when I feel like being petty or cruel. I will justify my actions and bask in self-satisfaction. But, oh deceiving flesh, whence comes this idea that it is okay to add even one mite of sadness or hurt to the already overwhelming torrents of suffering all around us? Jesus I have been so so wrong. I know you know. I’m sorry for the way I have treated your children and your body and your creation. It is an incredible mystery that, the deeper you go, the more and more you fix, the closer to the Center you get – the greater the problem seems and the more convinced you are that grace was the only way.

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~ by justinhong on April 16, 2012.

One Response to “Hands”

  1. I think I am allergic to talk about Jesus’ hands…sniff…

    Yeah, when you really give an honest look at the world, it gives “for God so loved the world” a deeper meaning. It is such a testimony to God’s love.

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