Dirty Hands

He walked into my office and introduced himself. He shook my hand. I knew he would do that. He seems the friendly type. But what he didn’t know was that I had eaten crackers earlier and had licked the salt off my fingers. He also didn’t know that I had washed them afterwards. He didn’t know what my hands had touched, yet he reached for my hand with eagerness. He accepted my handshake regardless of what my hands had previously been doing. No questions asked. He assumed my hands were a safe place.

I think about that. How often do I reach for a hand not knowing where it has been. Not knowing what hurt it has felt. Not knowing what trouble has reached out to place a scar on that skin. Do I reach for the hand with eagerness or reservations? Do I wonder what that hand has held in the past? Oh. I may know of the troubles, but do I ignore them or face them? I want to look them in the eye and offer hope. I may not know that the hand has recently wiped tears from the eyes of its owner. I may not know that the hand has recently held the hand of a lover or of an abuser. I may not know that the hand has been bruised so often by stains of addiction or has been grasped in praise of great accomplishments. But does it matter? Does it matter what the hand has done? Is it not still worthy to be touched? To be held?

That new hand I shake may have just held a newborn babe. Or it may have stirred a pot of stew. Perhaps that hand has reached in the dirt to plant a seed. Or held a sign in protest. That hand may have been raised in pledge to a waving flag. Reached for a handout or given one. But what if that hand has beaten another? Or forced its plans on weaker ones? What if that hand has stolen out of greed? Or just been handed a pink slip? One never knows what the other hand has done. Do we turn it away out of fear? Or do we reach out with a promise of redemption and acceptance?


Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly. John 7:24


How often does someone reach for my hand and wonder what sins are staining it? They may be unaware that my hand is struggling to hold too tightly to my never ending wants. Or that my hands have allowed a new opportunity to slip through my fingers. They may not know that my hand has reached out in a sympathetic hug. Or a congratulatory shake. Perhaps my hand has recently received a stinging slap of rejection. Or has given one. Perhaps my hand could use a soft squeeze of forgiveness. Will they accept me for who I am? Or will they have expectations that I can’t meet?

How often do I pull my hand back from the one reaching out in need? Suppose the hand reaches out in acceptance and faith. Perhaps it’s time to reach for the needy hand and fill it. Or return a favor given in love. Instead of judging the hand grasping for yours, extend an offer of support and friendship. That’s what I would hope would be extended to me. Can’t I do that for the next hand reaching out to me?

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