I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. Psalm 63:4 (NIV).

Have you ever looked at your hands? I mean really looked at your hands? Open your hands and look at them. First, palms up. Look at the skin; the folds, creases and lines. Look at the veins under the skin. Feel the texture. Some parts are rough and others smooth. Bend the fingers and watch the joints working. And look at your finger prints – they’re unique – no one else has the same prints as you. Even identical twins have different finger prints.

Now turn your hands over. Consider the contrasts between the back of your hands and the palms. Look at how the knuckles wrinkle and the tendons make a v shape toward the wrist. Feel the little tufts of hair. And the fingernails, they’re hard and resilient … look at the little ridges on them, the cuticles, and the colours.

Now think about the hands you have. They’ve served you well. They’ve reached out – embraced life every day. They helped propel you around the floor when you were a baby. They braced you as a toddler when you tripped and fell. They clasped your mother’s face as she kissed you. And they put food in your mouth and clothes on your back.

When you were younger you may have been taught to fold your hands in prayer. As a child you used your hands to throw a ball, build with wooden blocks, and draw pictures of your family. Your hands have tied shoelaces and pulled on boots. They’ve wiped away tears and caressed the love of your life.     They’ve been dirty, scraped, swollen and bent. On occasion they were firm and gentle when you held a newborn baby. Maybe they’ve been clenched and hard or lashed out in anger. Or maybe they’ve touched the lips of a loved one after they’d breathed their last.

Hands tell the stories of our lives. The ring finger on my right hand is disfigured and partially crippled from a rugby injury. The ring finger on my left hand is decorated with a wedding band to show the world I’m married and in love with someone very special. My hands have written countless words, pounded nails, pulled weeds, made beds, flushed toilets, shaped wood, clicked the computer mouse, cast fishing lines, and washed cars. They’ve covered my face, combed my hair, clipped my nails, and cleansed my body and those of my family. They were gentle when I reached out to hold each of our children and grandchildren for the first time.  Yet they were strong and sure when I grabbed my daughter and jerked her away from the danger of a car cutting a corner. My hands lovingly held my child’s hand when he had to have a tooth pulled. They rested on his head when I prayed for his healing. And they pushed a spoonful of Buckley’s into his mouth – wagging the finger, while he was ordered to swallow every drop.

From the day my hands first reached out into the world they’ve been sticky, wet, broken, bloodied, dried and raw. They were swollen when a school bully hit them again and again with a wooden ruler, clammy when they reached out to hold a girl’s hand for the first time, frozen from shovelling snow, and limp under anaesthetic. My hands hold me up, lay me down, and reach out in friendship and love. They shook slightly when they pressed the switch to send my father in law’s and fathers coffins into the crematorium furnaces. No doubt they’ll shake again.

My hands bear the marks of where I’ve been, and will be with me wherever I go. They testify to the joys and sorrows of my life. They held the Bible my mother gave me shortly after I was saved. They’ve been lifted in praise and thanksgiving to the Almighty. And they’ve been open to receive good things from His hand.

My hands tell the story of my life, yet the day will come when they’ll fall lifelessly to my side. But it won’t be the end. The day I die, God will reach out, take my hand, and lead me to my heavenly home.

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