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Receptivity and offering: Hands

Lynne Baab • Wednesday April 6 2022

Receptivity and offering: Hands

The other day I donated blood, and the woman who took my blood pressure had a tattoo of a cross at the base of her thumb. I didn’t ask her what it means to her because I was so busy having a light-bulb moment. I wondered what it would be like to put a cross on the base of my thumbs and use that as a way of offering my hands to God.

As a writer, offering my hands to God in service has particular resonance, but I also use my hands for hugs, cooking, folding laundry, and a host of other ways that I serve and show love to the people in my life.

After I came home from donating blood, I continued to ponder that image of a cross on my hands. It reminded me of an old hymn that we sang often in the churches of my childhood, and I always liked it. Here’s the first verse:

Take my life and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to thee.
Take my moments and my days;
let them flow in endless praise.

The second verse opens like this:

Take my hands and let them move
at the impulse of thy love.

I see God using the hands of family members and friends as they create art, garden, tend pets, play musical instruments, work in medical settings, and so many things that delight me. I see God using the hands of so many people who serve me through stocking grocery shelves, fixing power lines, repairing plumbing, entering data into spreadsheets, updating websites with the items I shop for, and on and on.

As I reflect on offering my hands to God, I am also reminded of a card sent to me by one of my students right before I was scheduled for hip replacement surgery in 2012. I was terrified about the surgery (needlessly as it turned out). The card from my student has the image of a surgeon operating on someone. Jesus stands behind the surgeon, with his left hand on the surgeon’s shoulder, and his right hand guiding the surgeon’s right hand. That picture was really important to me, and I held onto it as I tried to breathe through my fear before and after the surgery. (It turns out to be a well-known image, and you can see it here.)

I wonder what it would be like to offer my hands to Jesus each day, and try to receive that sense of companionship, guidance, and empowerment from Jesus that is represented by the image of Jesus standing behind me, guiding my hands.

Our eight-year-old granddaughter is very cuddly. One of her favorite things to do is crawl onto my lap, face down, and ask me to play the piano on her back. I have a silly little song that I sing as I run my hands up and down her back in chords and arpeggios. Each time I have the privilege of cuddling with her, I pray that the loving touch of my hands will be a foundation and bulwark for her as she gets older, helping her to feel beloved enough to say no to inappropriate touch, and giving her a model for loving touch that she can extend to others.

As I touch my granddaughter, I want to start imagining a cross at the base of my thumbs. The love I give her – as well as the love I try to express in writing and hugs and household tasks – comes from my knowledge of being beloved by God. My hands belong to God, and I want to offer them to God every day. “Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.” I want to receive back the strong power of the Holy Spirit, enabling me to love and care with my hands. Amen, Lord Jesus, let it be so.

(Next week – Receptivity and offering: Dependence. Illustration by Dave Baab. If you’d like to receive an email when I post on this blog, sign up below under “subscribe.”)

My book, Two Hands: Grief and Gratitude in the Christian Life, draws on the metaphor of hands. (Now available in paperback, kindle and audiobook).

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