Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Praying for my Hands


    I look down at my hands, wrinkled and cracked from the daily routines they endure.  Wash.  Fold. Clean. Wash. Fold. Clean.  I gave up painting my nails years ago and it’s been nearly a decade since I have had a professional manicure.  Soapy suds 3 times a day, day after day, month after month, year after year have take their toll.
    Lately I have noticed the neatly manicured nails of beautiful women I see at the banks and stores.  Their perfect nails colored in vibrant hues of pink and red and violet, beg my question.
    “How do they do it?” I wonder.  
    A few weeks ago, my daughter and I sat down at the dining room table.  Reluctantly, I consented to painting her nails.  Stroke after stroke of coral on her ten tiny fingers.  Feeling ambitious and with her insistence, I painted mine as well.  We sat there at the table gently blowing on our fingers.  
    My polish didn’t survive 24 hours.  Staring at my chipped nails in disgust, I reached for the acetone and removed all hint of color:  naked nails for working hands.
    The human hand is a marvelous creation.  29 bones, 9 major joints, 48 nerves and 123 ligaments are skillfully woven together enabling baseball player Aroldis Chapman to heave a pitch at a staggering 105mph.  The same materials  that produce such power and force can operate with enough precision to actually paint a picture on a grain rice.  If you have not seen these tiny works of art, you have to google them sometime.  I’m certain you’ll be amazed by the sheer wonder of such a minute masterpiece. 
   The hand also provides a unique form of identification.  Tiny swirls twist and turn like windy roads on a map to create a one-of-a-kind stamp we call a fingerprint. The palm of the hand with all of its wrinkles and creases  is tough and durable, yet strangely sensitive.
I stare at my wrinkly, dry hands that bear 30 years of tiny scars from my busywork.  It’s doubtful they’ll ever look like the perfect fingers I see  in magazines.  They are short workers constantly on duty.  They remove splinters and clean scraped knees.  They rest on a forehead to measure temperature and wipe little noses that run.  They chop onions and knead dough. They type and paint and fix and scold and they hold the hand of a loving man whose affection I don’t deserve.  
Index finger has pointed under hundreds of words, slowly moving, letter by letter, as tiny lips decode  the sounds into intelligible language.  Who knows how many pinky promises my little finger made  as a child? Ring finger has worn a golden band for nearly 12 years.  Then holding it all together, often offering an encouraging “thumbs up” is my short, stout thumb on the end.  
             Holy scripture has a lot of say about hands.  Hands clapping.  Hands praising.  Hands working.  Hands laying.  Hands spinning. Hands rinsing.  Hands lifting. Hands striking. Hands delivering.  Hands producing. Hands making.  Hands harvesting.  Hands fulfilling.  
I love what Nehemiah said about hands.  He had a job.  Nehamiah was rebuilding a sacred wall torn down by adversaries.  Words of ridicule and opposition were shot at him like evil darts of an enemy.  

His response is recorded in Nehemiah 6:8-10 (NIV)

They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.”
But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”

Strengthen my hands.  Strengthen my hands.  Strengthen my hands.   I murmur the words to myself imagining the urgency and fervor with which Nehemiah must have prayed them.  Desperate to see the job done right and done well.  Longing for  his hands to finish what they started, he prayed.  I get that.  Something deep inside of me wants to see the job done, but I get tired.  Can I pray like Nehemiah?   Can I trust God to strengthen me for the task at hand?

    The unique fingerprint testifies to the unique task each hand is equipped to do.  God designed your hand to build something that only you can build.  There is work only your hands can do.  
    Maybe your hands are like mine, tired and sore from their daily routines.  Or perhaps you just treated your hands to a manicure and they rest on your lap with colorful, glistening veneers.  Regardless, tiny swirls masterfully designed by the Creator, barely visible and rarely noticed cry out.  They whisper God’s special plan for you, for your hands.  Seek Him to discover what your hands were designed to do.  Then,  cry out like the Psalmist in Psalm 90:17:

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.

God will strengthen our hands.  God will establish the work of our hands.  Here’s the best part.  Our hands bring us rewards.  

Proverbs 12:14 From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the  
work of their hands bring them reward. 

    God strengthens our hands.  God establishes the work of our hands and God brings us rewards from the work of our hands.  Nothing our hands do go unnoticed.  As we live out Colossians 3:23 and do all things as though we were doing it for Jesus himself, we receive rewards: both on earth and in heaven.

    In Proverbs, we read of a woman who was diligent in working with her hands whether for buisness or charity.  The Bible says:
Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.  Proverbs 31:31

I smile at these words.  Honor her for all that her hands have done.   In a world consumed with appearance, in my mind obsessed with pretty hands all that God cares about is what my hands have done.

Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived had some thoughts on hands as well.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. Eccl. 9:10

I only have one chance to do something with my hands.  You only have one chance to do something with your hands.  Let’s use our hands to hands to give  Glory to God.

Today, I pray like Nehemiah,   "Strengthen my hands Lord."

References accessed Feb. 14, 2013:

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