I remember when our daughter, Amanda, discovered her hands. I heard her quietly cooing, gently-jabbering, and, from time to time, gleefully giggling from her crib. I peeked into the little room which we had turned into a nursery; she was resting on her back, she had her arms extended in front of her, and she made her hands to float in front of her like doves in the sky. Then, she would bring a hand close to her face, look at it with wide and wondering eyes, laugh out loud, and set it to flying again. Those hands would, before I knew it, let her feed herself cheerios from the high-chair tray and dirt from the ground; hold crayons and draw, sometimes on paper and sometimes on a wall; clang on our already out-of-tune piano; and reach out for me to hold her. Later, but still quickly, she’d use them to hold the handlebars of her tricycle, to grasp the bridle of a horse, and to hold the steering wheel of a car. She used them to hold the music for songs she loved to sing, to take her diploma from her high school principal, and to hold a crying autistic child who was otherwise inconsolable. Now, her hands hold the leash of her beloved dog as he walks her through Central Park, carry out the debris from the theater she and some others are trying to put back into use, and cook for her friends as I used to cook for her. These things happened so quickly; after all, she just discovered those hands last week.
Peeling potatoes; kneading dough; washing dishes. Digging out the garden; planting seeds; picking cotton; chopping wood; changing diapers; putting a cool cloth on a fevered brow; throwing a football; swinging a nine iron; striking out; hitting a home run; typing an email; typing a hundred emails; signing a contract; slamming a fist against another’s skin; binding up a wound; slamming the door; offering a welcoming embrace. All of these things we do with our hands.
For good and for ill, our hearts and our wills touch the world with our hands. As Carl Zimmer said in his essay, “The Common Hand”:
The hand is where the mind meets the world. We humans use our hands to build fires and sew quilts, to steer airplanes, to write, dig, remove tumors, pull a rabbit out of a hat. The human brain, with its open-ended creativity, may be the thing that makes our species unique. But without hands, all the grand ideas we concoct would come to nothing but a very long to-do list.
The heart and mind of God met the world in the life and, in the hands of Jesus. He touched the untouchable and made them know they were welcome in God’s heart; he placed his hands on the blind, the deaf, and the broken and made them to see, hear, and walk. Jesus cradled children in his arms and made it unmistakable that we are God’s sons and daughters. He took meager loaves and fishes from a boy in the wilderness, blessed them to feed thousands, and made us to know that God’s generosity overflows even in the scarcest of times and places. He let his hands be nailed to a Roman cross and made us to know that God’s hands always bless rather than condemn. In the hands of Jesus, the heart and mind of God touch the world.