Monday, September 21, 2009

Sharon's hands

She . . . willingly works with her hands . . . she extends her hands to the poor, Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy . . . give her of the fruit of her hands. – Proverbs 31:13, 20, 31 (NKJV)

Recently my friend Sharon treated me to a girls’ day out. The day-long event was a “HeartSpa Getaway” held at a local Christian campground and included activities to nourish, refresh, and renew both body and spirit.

In addition to enjoying inspirational music provided by a women’s singing group and searching soul and Scripture, we also pampered our hands, faces and feet.

Our first pampering station was for our hands. First we rubbed them with an exfoliating scrub, then slathered on a soothing lotion. The next step I was a bit hesitant about—dipping my hands in a crock-pot containing liquid paraffin. I was afraid it would be too hot. But it wasn’t, and as soon as I brought my hands out, I was instructed to hold them together in a prayer position. My folded hands were then encased in a plastic bag and wrapped with a hand towel. While we waited for the paraffin, plastic, and towel to do their therapeutic work, we were to pray with and for our partners.

Sharon and I clasped our towel-clad hands and began praying. As I prayed for Sharon, whom I’ve known for over 30 years, I envisioned her hands—long and slender, with nails clipped short so they won’t interfere with the work she has to do.

I remembered when these hands brought me homemade chicken soup when I was in bed recovering from my second C-section. She hadn’t known it, but I’d asked God for some homemade chicken soup when I was still in the hospital.

These hands, I realized, have spent a lifetime doing for others—cooking, cleaning, mending, gardening, canning—the million and one things that need done for a family. These hands have written countless notes of encouragement, slipped uncounted dollar bills into scores of needy hands. They can be counted on to do what needs to be done. They’d held sick children, changed messy diapers, cleaned up puke, scrubbed bathrooms, cut hair, given perms, washed dogs, wrapped gifts, rubbed backs, blew kisses, prepared Bible lessons.

They’ve been bitten, blistered, burned, calloused, and cut, yet still wave a friendly greeting in a grocery store, on the street, in church. As busy as these hands are, they always take time to comfort. They’ve been clasped together in prayer for others, and they’ve grasped the hands of others as she prayed for them.

The hands are the instruments of the heart. Sharon’s hands are giving hands, for her heart overflows with kindness, compassion, and love.

My daughter’s dog, Tess, was rescued from an animal shelter. Tess is afraid of hands and slinks away in cowering fear when a hand, however loving, gets too close. Who knows what cruelties have been inflicted on her by hands that wanted only to dominate or harm?

Hands can hit, pinch, pound, punch, slam, and slap. A closed hand is tight and tense. Hands that grasp and cling when it’s time to let go cannot be open to receive.

Sharon’s hands are no longer supple, smooth, and nimble. They bear the scars of a lifetime of love. But they are not empty. They overflow with blessings poured out from her heavenly Father, blessings she passes on to others.

I have no choice over how pretty my hands are—whether they’re long and slender or wide and knuckley. But, as Sharon likes to say, pretty is as pretty does.

I choose what these hands do. They can lend a hand, pass on a hand-me-down, give a hand up. They can be the hands of God in a needy world.

Have you taken a good look at your hands lately?

Dear God, thank you for Sharon’s hands and the many hands that have met my needs over the years. Bless them, O Lord. Forgive me for the times my hands have hurt others, and help me to forgive and forget those hands that have hurt me. Show me how to use my hands for Your work. Amen.

Special-Tea: Proverbs 31:10-31

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