Today is the last day of orientation; next week, I start visiting with real people and doing my best to be Jesus for them. One of the recurring thoughts I've had leading up to and into this journey is : What exactly do I have to offer?
They asked me that in the interview, and I said what I thought my references would say. But the truth is that when it's just me and my empty hands, I'm still asking.
Because I look at these hands, and I think about taking another hand in mine to pray. I think about holding another hand on a tough stretch of the road. I think about even something so simple as stretching out one of these hands to introduce myself and say hello. It may be the first thing you ever meet in me - my hand - and I wonder what these bruised, scratched, scarred and calloused hands say about me. I wonder what they tell you about my ministry.
The problem, I think, is that we get a too-perfect image of Jesus. The problem is that we like to think of the Immaculate God, the pristine persona of Christ. We like to think of Him blameless, sinless...perfect. And that comes down to His hands. Oh, sure, they're nail-scarred, but what Messiah's aren't? We can overlook the blood of the nails for the tender touch of the Savior.
Whatever tenderness there was in Jesus, it was not in His touch. Not in the calloused, scarred, bruised, scratched, broken flesh of His hands.
He grew up the son of a carpenter, which means Jesus had to have spent a great deal of His time in the wood shop. Yes, we see Him at age 12 hanging around the Temple, but I think we would also see Him quite often hanging around Joseph, for no other reason than that's what young men did. This was before power tools and protective gloves and all that; He would have been manhandling the wood. A forebear for the Cross that was to come? His hands would have been calloused in all the right places.
He went out fishing with the guys. I mean, the disciples. I don't imagine He just sat there and supervised. He helped toss and haul the net, burning His hands on the rope. Scratching them on this or that in the process. Over time, those little nicks and scratches would have scarred over and dotted his flesh with the soft white tissue of haunting injury.
He was pushed and jostled and banged around. He probably tripped a time or two on a rocky road. He climbed mountains, so you know He had a few tumbles. He was fully human, and even though we think of Him as perfect, His tangible flesh was anything but. If it was, then you'd have to say Jesus was never a man. If He could live in this world, work in this world, love in this world without getting scratched and scarred and calloused in the process, He was never human. He never had flesh. That negates the whole Jesus story.
But He was fully man. He was fully flesh. He was human, and His hands are the proof. Push the nail-bloodied holes aside and look at what remains. Look at the hands of a Man who lived here. Think about it what it means to see those calloused hands breaking bread. Think about what it means to see those scarred hands touching the blind. Think about what it means to see those scratched, bruised, and broken hands pulling a child onto His knee.
Think about what it would mean to your understanding of Jesus if you were held, not with perfect hands, but with calloused ones. They weren't perfect; they were holy.
So I think about my own calloused hands, about the way I am about to take another hand in mine. About how I am about to hold the hand of someone on the toughest road. About how I am about to offer this hand to another as a way of introducing myself. And I wonder what my hands say about me.
I hope they say that I'm fully flesh. I hope they say that I really live here, that I really work here, that I really love here. I get intimidated thinking about all the imperfections of my life that my hands show, but I just keep coming back to Jesus and then I can only pray...
I hope that mine are holy hands.