The Work of our Hands

Ever think about hands? Yeah, your hands, the ones at the ends of your arms. Chances are you don’t think about them much at all. But as an artist whose primary artistic expression is the piano, I do. A lot.

Take a moment right now and just look at your hands. Two hands. Twenty-nine bones. One hundred twenty-three named ligaments and forty-eight named nerves. Eight fingers and two opposable thumbs. Ten unique fingerprints. A perfect and intricately designed  collection of muscle and sinew, bone and flesh. That unique part of us which grasps, feeds, counts, expresses, greets, holds, punches, points, and types these words you are reading at this very moment.

Then there are the postures of our hands. Open hands to receive or to release. Raised hands to pose a question or worship our God. Clenched hands which express anger or closed-mindedness. Busy hands that denote industriousness and idle hands laziness. We shake hands to greet one another and clap our hands to show applause and happiness. Hands can express delight or disrespect with a single gesture.

The term hand also expresses many meanings. Talk to the hand. Lend a hand. Hand off the ball. He’s very handy. The hand is quicker than the eye. Play the hand that’s dealt to you. I’ve got to hand it to you. Take my hand.

In Judeo-Christian art, the “Hand of God” was an artistic metaphor used to “indicate the intervention in or approval of affairs on Earth by God.” It included the actions of blessing and creativity. This is affirmed by the psalmist who considers the heavens and the skies—all of creation—to be the “work of His hands.” [Psalm 19:1, 102:25, etc. NIV] And to have the hand of God upon you would be to have His special anointing and protection and favor.

Recently, my second grandchild was born. Another boy which my son and daughter-in-law have named “Jackson.” (I call him Jack-Jack, of course.) And in Jack-Jack’s first week of living, I got a chance to spend some quality time with him, talking to him about life, and sharing Grandpa stories, and just staring into his contented, cherubic face. And that’s when I pulled out his little hand and just studied it for awhile—Delicately and perfectly formed.

Version 2It was in reflecting at his tiny hand—half-open like a rose in mid bloom—that I had a thought. Now, I don’t believe I typically have the gift of prophecy, but I had this sudden notion—this little baby was going to be a difference-maker, a culture maker, a force for good. For he has the potential to change the world, or at least some small but meaningful portion of it. In his tiny hands is the potential to make great art, or forge great relationships, or create great things, or inspire great dreams, or share our great faith, or love with great compassion. I was humbled at the thought that every human—from birth to adulthood—has the potential for such greatness. It is all within the reach of our hands.

As artists of faith, we are called to express the “works of our hands.” And this should make sense. For the act of creation, of craftsmanship, of conception, often happens through our hands. Hands which hold paintbrushes and pens, hands which strum guitars and press piano keys, hands which direct symphonies and aim cameras and emote soliloquies. The question is, will we make a difference in our world and change our culture with it?

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