Last year I had a great idea to take pictures of every family member’s hands spelling out the words peace, hope and love. The final project still sits on my desk waiting to be completed. Looking at the pictures reminds me just how much our hands reveal about who we are, our life, and our family. Hands are something we take for granted. When was the last time you noticed another person’s hands? Or, your own hands, for that matter?
The first time I ever took notice of hands was during my internship year in seminary. It happened while I greeted people as they left the sanctuary. It was a farming community and I was surprised by how many people – male and female – were missing fingers. The hands came in all kinds of sizes and textures. One person commented how soft my hands were and I was embarrassed. It felt like an intimate detail of my life had been exposed.
Hands often reveal a person’s “true” age, their occupation, gender, race, and hygiene practices. My son’s hands reveal poor parenting. His ring finger is permanently bent from a brake he sustained playing basketball. It could have been mended, but his father told him it was only jammed. He likes to remind me of this all the time.
I discovered, while putting together the collage, how hands reflect the human family. It was a good thing that I labeled each image because I couldn’t tell the difference between family members once they were on my computer. I’ve started to think that hands reveal more of the intimate details of our life than our faces. One could say our hands magnify our souls.
As human beings we are connected and our hands remind us of this fact. Our lives are filled with aspects that classify us as different from each other – language, interests, talents, opinions, religion and cultural traditions. Yet, hands have a common practice. Fine motor skills do not depend on language or religion. How hands work do not change because of the color of your skin or political opinion. Hands remind us we are mechanically connected to each other into one unique human family.
Last week a friend posted a brief clip of a TIME magazine interview with Astrophysicist, Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson on Facebook. Dr. DeGrasse Tyson was asked to share the most astounding fact about the universe. I am including the link because it is worth watching.
His most astounding fact was the knowledge that all the atoms that make up the human body have their origins in ancient stars. These stars cooked elements under extreme temperatures and pressure until they became unstable and exploded. The explosions shot clouds of all the elements necessary for life – carbon, nitrogen, oxygen – out into the galaxy. These elements not only make up human life, but stars, solar systems and all that we know to exist in the universe. To him, it is not amazing that we came from stars, but that we are physically connected to everything in the universe.
Some Christians will complain about this astounding fact. They will argue that we are made in God’s image and not of stars. I will not make this argument because I have never seen God. All I know and believe is that God is the creator of all life, seen and unseen. To me, Dr. DeGrasse Tyson has not revealed a competing truth, but has proven something I believed all along. That all of us are connected to each other, to the universe and to the Creator from which it all comes. It is a fact I find reflected in my hands.
These scientists, who spend their life studying the universe, have also revealed what I consider a second astounding fact. The deeper we are able to see into our own galaxy and others, the more we come to realize the life we share on this planet is one of the most rare and precious treasures in the universe. While the elements and atoms that form life float richly throughout space, intelligent life is extremely rare. This would remain true even if we discovered a million other planets exactly like ours.
We are connected, we are unique and the one thing that holds us together is love. While this love comes to a particular expression in the birth of a child, it is not confined to a time and place. Christ’s love continues to fill the universe with hope, bringing comfort to our suffering souls and joy to our celebrations. It’s a truth I need to be reminded of after a difficult week filled with fear, anxiety and pain.