As long ago as my high school years, I’ve been told that I had strong hands. Because I played the piano and organ back then, I always thought of this as a compliment. My own appraisal: They were old hands—long, skinny, bony, wrinkled and ridged with bulging blood vessels, tendons and musculature. Oddly enough, some folks thought of my hands as one of my strange charms. (When you’re balding, you take “charming” wherever you can get it.)
Whatever they were called, these were my hands and they have done well. I played piano and organ for decades with dexterity and skill. For a few years I was a meat-cutter and these fingers curled around knives, boxes and hamburger-making machinery. Throughout my life I’ve been a gardener, which meant that these hands know how to use a shovel, hoe, rake, clippers and hayfork. Because I’ve been a writer/author for at least fifty years, these hands have known how to fit themselves to keyboards—first typewriters and then to a variety of computers—to carve and assemble words into useful forms.
These hands have cooked, cleaned, fished, dug, torn down and built, repaired, driven, cut, glued, moved, lifted, played, prayed, searched, opened and closed. They have known dirt and filth of every kind, been injured, bandaged and healed. They have warded off danger.
These hands have learned to be gentle and loving—as the sympathetic end point of hugs, touching evidence of reassurances and affirmations. They have hand-written love letters, kept a personal journal, and caressed loved ones. A million handshakes have begun and strengthened lasting friendships.
And now they are old. Really old. Although I keep them strong—exercise and tai chi—they’re showing their age: arthritis and stiffness, a loss of flexibility. The veins stick out just a little bit more, the wrinkles are just a little deeper and their hair covering is just a bit greyer. They still work, but not as well.
They are still my hands, though, and I am always grateful when I see their gnarly appearance. There is muscle memory in my fingers and wrists—the kind of ancient recollection that reminds me of the good that has happened because of these hands. The astounding gift from God that these ten digits and two wrists have been over all these years.
When I look at my hands, I sometimes spend a few moments in reflections that start with gratitude for what these old hands have done. What they can do now. By God’s grace, what they may yet accomplish.
How about you? Your hands. Your old hands. Take a few moments right now to look at them. Remembering their history, recalling their past and present capabilities. Attaching appreciative verbs and adjectives to describe them. Cataloguing their varied skills. Being joyful about their appearance. Resolving to use them well, no matter their age or attributes.
And when you’re done with this time of grateful meditation, use your hands to *pray about your hands!
*One inspiration for gratitude about your hands, and a reminder of their place in your prayer life, might be Albrecht Dürer’s drawing, Praying Hands. (See https://lutheranreformation.org/history/durers-praying-hands/ for an appreciative background.)