Ever since the guinea pig died I’ve been thinking a lot about hands. Working hands. What kind of work our hands do, to be precise. My husband’s hands pet the soft hair of his baby daughter with her tears falling on his big shoulder as she says good bye to the little sick animal she’s loved for years. And then those same hands take a frail and fragile creature that breathes and they turn it into a still and lifeless form with no air left in its lungs. How many times has he been the one to do this? Oh, I could lose count. And on butchering day he is the one to do the killing part, and he teaches his boy to be a gentleman and do the killing part too… …because my soft mama hands are healing hands, not hurting hands he tells me. What about your hands? What kind of work do they do? What do I do with mine that sometimes look pretty but usually have dirt under nails that peel? Up until recently, they used to change diapers. And prepare bottles and pick noses and wash sheets. Today though, they tap out words. And comb hair. And pet horses. Help with schoolwork and fold clothes and read books. But mostly… …they just point the way. Today in church I thought of the smells in the stable because I know what it would’ve smelled like. When I think of a barn…my barn…my brain automatically makes the smell, and it’s hay and it’s wood and it’s cobwebs and manure and animals and life and earth. I might know the smell, but what I don’t know is who built the manger. Who wove the reeds or who cut the tree and if it was a tree, who chose the wood and who planed it soft so that it wouldn’t rip the lip of a feeding animal? Who made the joints and dovetailed it all together so it’d last long in the stable and not fall apart? My husband used his hands to make a trunk for me once. Took wood and tools and a brush and some stain and made it all into a box so simple and beautiful I love to just run my hand over its smooth sides. What does a man think of when he crafts a manger? His hands must’ve been sure and confident but he probably didn’t even have a thought that the box he was making would someday hold the most important baby ever born. And what about the hands that took tools and a tree and worked just as hard some thirty-three years later? Were those hands rough and were they accurate and did the mind that made the hands move think of what he was making his hands do? How strong do your hands have to be to plane the pole that will bear the dead weight of the savior of the world as He hangs onto every sin ever committed?
Did a little sliver of that tree get stuck into a rough callous…a little stick, wedged tight and prickling under the skin of a knarled finger that helped craft the tool to crucify. How long does it take to make a bed for a king? How long does it take to carve an executioner’s tree? And what do those hands look like? My mind sees the task and my mind sees the tools and when my mind sees the hands, they are strong and they work hard and they all look the same. Hands that build good. And then those same looking hands…constructing for evil. What about yours? What are your hands building? We laid the guinea pig in the ground and my girl took her little nine-year old hands and she shoveled dirt and she tamped earth. And we all circled round and said something sweet. You get used to this dying when you live on a farm. That didn’t stop a tear from coming to her eye though. And when we walked away and started back to the house, she walked with her Daddy… ..and he held her hand.