I was sitting looking at my daughter's hands today. They were in mine, as she sat and watched a cherished 'Mr Tumble' TV programme - so I had chance, once again, to have a good look.
I have been fascinated by the girls' hands since they were born. In the first days and weeks, they were the grasping, indiscriminate things with fingers flicking in all directions and none (this picture is of one such hand at one such time). They were hands that had no co-ordination beyond the instinctive, no ability to hold in any meaningful way, no ability to manipulate or control. I remember thinking then how it is another miracle of nature that such hands can develop into dextrous tools - the mark of humanity in many ways.
Hands are, to me at least, central to my ministry. I use them in the sacred moments of consecration; I can give peace to someone who is ill-at-ease, just with a touch; in many ways I can weave stories and spells that mesmerise some of the children in my ministerial care; I can offer a greeting (one hand if you are 'alright', two if I really like you). I also believe (counter-culturally) that touch is the most soothing, reassuring, human thing that I can do, and appropriate with adults and children. Yes, there are protocols, but so are there for everything.
With this in mind, I found myself rapt by these little hands. They are pretty adept at what life requires of them, but they are also gifted in comforting and soothing. Jessica and Rebekah have learned that even though they are still two years old, a stroke of the face is a healing thing. They have learned that a hand held is reassuring, offering safety and protection. They have learned that hands can beautify - they play with one another's hair, decorating it with clips and other such adornments (before moving on to mine). Yes, they also know how easily an index finger reaches to those places in the nose that a crayon cannot reach. Yes, they know that a hit will hurt.
I stare wonderingly both in the present joy that those little hands give, and also at the vast potential that lays in them. I have no wish for them beyond being happy in this life, but I find myself pondering what those little mitts will achieve in their days. Will they be the hands that pens a world-class novel or an earth shattering symphony? Will they be hands that heal? Will they be hands that can suspend pain and tears? Will they be hands become capable of creating music that is so beautiful it is crippling? I even wonder if the vagueries of life will mean that they have to become hands that kill to prectect? If I miss a trick as a parent, will they be the hands that adminsiters the next fix? If eyes are the window to the soul, then hands are surely the front-door. The goodness that is innate in my children (even beyond any control that I can claim to have had) is manifest in their tenderness, in their readiness to heal (even now). They are so small, so perfectly formed, and yet so powerful that they can overwhelm me. In the years that I hope and pray are granted me to do so, I will watch avidly as those four little hands acquire new skills - all the while praying that they retain the perfect silent meaningful power that they already have.