Remember when it was socially acceptable to shake hands with others? I am looking forward to that day again. There is so much revealed in that brief physical encounter. Traditionally it has been one of the first impressions that we make on others and they on us. Texture, strength, confidence and body language all tell a little (or a lot) about character in that instant of one person connecting with another. I have been impressed, disappointed, surprised and educated by the ritual.
So much of our spiritual life is expressed in our hands. Take a moment to look at your hands. Where have they been? What have they done? Whom have they touched — and how? Our hands communicate with others when words either will not do or cannot be used.
The image of the hand is used to express powers beyond our control — the hand of fate, or for many “the hand of God.” These can express either great comfort or great terror. What we do with our hands must be intentional, under control and with full awareness. Our hands will reveal our skill or lack thereof. Our hands will reveal our care for others.
The preacher in Ecclesiastes encourages us to “do whatever our hand finds to do.” And he offers us no excuses in difficult or challenging times. In the very next verse, we read that we have no control over the times in which we happen to exist — stuff happens — we still must work with our hands.
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going. Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all. For man does not know his time. Like fish which are taken in an evil net, and like birds which are caught in a snare, so the sons of men are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10-12, RSV)
But our hands can only do in the places where our feet take us. Where we go, and why we go there, also reveals much about who we are. Look at your feet. Where have they been? Why did they go there?
It is our feet that take us into the presence of others before we reach out our hands or get to work. The prophet Isaiah says, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes peace, who brings good tidings of good, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’.” (52:7).
Of course, our hands and feet are guided by something. We do not randomly go where we go or do what we do with our hands. There is always a purpose and we are always there because someone or something has led us there. We should choose carefully then who or what we follow.
Thomas á Kempis, who wrote an extended devotional about the Eucharist, says this concerning what guided his feet: “I feel there are especially necessary for me in this life two things without which its miseries would be unbearable. Confined here in this prison of the body I confess I need these two, food and light. Therefore, You have given me in my weakness Your sacred Flesh to refresh my soul and body, and You have set Your word as the guiding light for my feet. Without them I could not live aright, for the word of God is the light of my soul and Your Sacrament is the Bread of Life.” Thomas á Kempis Imitation of Christ, (Chapter 11).
A reminder of that beautiful verse, Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.”
It has been difficult for many to maintain a sense of direction and purpose over the past few months. There has been no one unaffected. Some are busier than ever, and others are stuck with nothing to do at all. All of us have been disrupted — even if it seems or we claim we have not been.
As we hopefully are approaching a time when we are nearer the end than the beginning, it is a good time to remind ourselves of what we have done and are doing with our hands and feet. We will all be changed some. Make it a change for the better.
Sean Niestrath lives and ministers in Madisonville. You may contact him via email at email@example.com.