After a week full of hands-on activities, I had my nails done for the first time in ages. My hands are somewhat calloused and always aching, and I do not have the delicate pianist fingers of my daughter Deborah or my daughter-in-law Adriana. I had finished a translation and decided to get some major yard work done: weeding and re-planting my vegetable garden and planting flowers all over our Eden. Have two pairs of garden gloves sent by my son from Japan, but I am a hands-on, get the dirt under your nails kind of gardener, no matter how much I know it won`t be a neat job to get them clean. That sort explains the callouses. The aching is due to constant arthrosis, and when these hands don`t ache, they tingle, reminding me that I`d better see an angiologist soon – can`t ignore bad circulation forever!
The other activity I enjoy to get my hands working well is making bread. Kneading is very good exercise, they say, and last Saturday`s batch of rolls didn`t make it to the table for our community Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone who came into my kitchen to help get stuff ready came out of with a hot roll or two. Four baking sheets of rolls disappeared, and my husband didn`t even have a chance to try one! So today I baked for him alone: one baking sheet of rolls, one loaf, and one sheet of esfihas (bread stuffed with lemon and mint-flavored meat) though I am freezing half the esfihas for another day. Since I was in the kitchen and the ideas were boiling over, I made stuffed peppers to freeze for later, beef parmegiana for lunch and to freeze for another occasion, doce de abóbora (squash), sagu de vinho (red wine tapioca pudding), started on tomorrow`s feijoada and cleaned my fridge in the middle of the mess. I have to admit I am not a very organized cook, and am glad that tomorrow my cleaning lady will be here to finish off what I didn`t get done.
Back to my hands. Adriana was going to town and asked if I wanted to go with her. Besides being tired, my feet were a mess and I thought it would be relaxing to have long overdue podologist see (i.e., treat) those tired feet. They could do my feet at one o`clock (forty-five minutes from the time I called, and would I like to do my (hand) nails too?) Why not – I could use a little pampering – so I rushed Lau through lunch, ran in and out of the shower, and was off with my daughter-in-law to an hour or so of luxury. While waiting to be attended, I checked out the colors. Never in my sixty-nine years of life have I chosen anything more daring than pink, nude or an occasional red for nails – but a luminous royal blue nail polish beckoned and I heard its exaggerated siren`s call. Nothing (short of long treatment with a dermatologist) can be done for my speckled skin on hands and arms, but the terminals sure look pretty and are a perfect match for the blouse I plan to wear to church on Sunday.
After a long winter without posting in my Garland blog, I am writing something apparently superficial and certainly not life-changing about getting my nails done in royal blue. On a day celebrating theologians, instead of writing on deep issues of life applied to daily living (Bible is definitely practical theology and I love it!) I decided to pamper my feet and color the tips of my hands royally.
Of course that made me think of the many Biblical metaphors on hands. First, God`s hands – a God who made the world by His hands, who has the tiny little baby and our personal universe as well as aeons of prehistorical, distant past, present chaos and apocalyptical times all in the hollow of His hands. He is a personal God who made me a person and put me in a community of millions of unique individuals, and promised to guide me to the end of my days and beyond. He takes me by the hand and leads me through valleys and higher places (Psalms 31:15; 119:73; 139:10; Isaiah 42:6 ). Jesus said that He gives everlasting life and “no one will pluck us out of His hands” (John 10:28). We rejoice because God holds us in His hands -- though everything around us is shattered, torn asunder and ground to smithereens – I shall not be moved. Yet I am moved, because He gave us hands.
My own hands are not metaphors – they are mini-analogies to the greatness of a creative, ever acting God who does not slumber and is mighty to save. Wisdom says that the righteous “open their hands to the afflicted” (Proverbs 31:10) and whatever we have to do has to be done “with all our might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). “Whatever we do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him,” Colossians 3:17). God has put His signet ring on our clumsy fingers and makes it possible for us to do His work on our weeping planet! For this reason, men and women lift holy hands in prayer and godliness with good works (1 Tim 2:8, 10).
God incarnate was the Word from the beginning of time and spoke the world into existence. He came into a world that did not welcome him, and gave himself so we might become His body. Head and hands are always joined, because analogously, we do with our hands that which first comes from our heart and head – and our Lord gave up His throne to have his body broken and hands pierced by rough nails:
See from his head, his hands, his feetSorrow and blood flow mingled down.Did e’er such love and sorrow meetOr thorns compose so rich a crown?Our hands are not vital organs like heart and lungs, nor do they go long distances by themselves – they have to be connected to the rest of the body. But we would be severely handicapped without them. Though we use hundreds of word-figures for our hands (handyman, ask for one’s hand, give me a hand, hands-on, handmaid, hands off) they all work in connection with the head. Our lives are changed by things that are nailed:
– Christ nailed to the cross for our sins, resurrected from the grave for our justification, lifted high as He ascended to heaven where He sits at the right hand of God the Father – the words of the wise (like goads and like nails firmly fixed given by one Shepherd, Ecclesiastes 12:11)– historical events like the nailing of 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg cathedral in 1517.But the color or shape or even physical condition of my insignificant nails has nothing to do with all of this. Sllly things like what they did to my nails do raise significant details on life and being, making me ponder on more than the condition of my hands and feet. So yeah to my royal blue fingertips, because they are just a tip of the iceberg of life as it is and as it should be coram deo.