We were on our way to dinner at a friend’s, traveling carefully down country roads packed with snow and reflecting headlights off ice that wouldn’t melt until May, when the “highs” climb above freezing and the salt on the roads finally does it’s thing. There were kids bickering in the backseat and Christmas music on the radio and somehow in these sixteen years of family car rides, we had successfully learned to ignore both. And as he’d been doing for the last 21 years, he smiled, reached across the console, and laced his fingers with mine. A couple of miles down that winding road he pulled his hand from mine to turn at the barely visible stop sign and as we rounded the corner he gave me a sideways glance while he absently flexed and straightened the fingers on his right hand, then turned his attention back to winter driving.
And I know what he’s thinking, because, well, 21 years. He’s thinking of the ache in those hands and wondering how long they’ll hold out. About the stiffness after a day of using them and the way they just don’t cooperate the way they used to. Or the way that one finger just won’t warm up anymore since injuring it, and it’s circulation, years ago.
In my mind’s eye I can see the frustration when his fingers don’t grasp and hold what he’s reached for, instead seeing it fall to the floor. I can hear his sigh when he retrieves what he’s dropped and tries again. I know he’s counting those vested union hours and praying hard he can make it until then. That things are still working enough to enjoy some semblance of retirement. That these hands will continue to provide and care for a family of five, six with Auntie Amy, and two with special needs.
So I reached across the console and grabbed that hand again. I see it differently, of course. So much bigger than my own, I have come to love every thick callous and scar. I’ve seen those hands wrestle my tires and my toddlers. Move refrigerators and move me to tears holding our new babies. They’ve moved in incredible gentleness and strength and awed me in both. Those tired hands have worked hard to provide pleasure, comfort, safety and income.
And just within the last couple of years, I’ve had the great joy and privilege to see Jesus through those hands. Seen them do things they’d never done before. I’ve seen them scrape up just enough for bills and be satisfied, sit for patient hours with a pencil doing middle school homework, faithfully hold and study his Bible, fold in prayer over food and friends, placed on shoulders in comfort and serve countless brothers and sisters in Christ. I’ve watched as God has somehow made my husband’s hands even more tender, more gentle, and given them greater impact regardless of how well they function. He’s made them spiritually stronger in their physical weakness.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, in the last week alone, they’ve been required to plow, change tires, replace bearings, brakes and turn signals. They’ve worked hard cutting, scraping and lifting at work to come home and shovel out a chicken coop. They’ve brought home the bacon, figuratively and literally. They’re not done yet. I know my Lord has much more work for this servant. I also know He’ll provide the means for him to do it.
During this Christmas season of not enough time, money, patience and health, what greater gift could I ask for than to be able to rest in the loving hands of not just my Lord and Savior, but the God fearing, Jesus following hands of the husband He gave me?