It’s interesting what we observe when we’re driving – often the behavior, temperament, and manners of others is a kind of mobile life lesson. One day last week I saw a driver with one hand draped casually over the steering wheel – gratefully we were at a stop light. In his “free” hand he was gripping a phone, held about 20 inches from his face. I thought he must be using the “speaker” feature - clearly he was engaged in an all-consuming conversation. He was staring intently at the phone, talking and gesturing as though the other person was sitting right there next to him. The implied intimacy in the intensity of his exchange was fascinating. Without doubt he was distracted from safe driving because of his singular focus on what was in his hand. I waited until he drove on, yet the experience caused me to reflect.
We’ve all been in elevators and social situations where what’s in the hand precludes any human engagement with others. Sometimes we’re simply oblivious to anything or anyone beyond our immediate focus. A kind of reverent bow of the head accompanies this total immersion in the images and sounds of an electronic device. Add to that the eerie glow that some screens cast on our face, and the picture is a little surreal - dehumanized, robotic.
Our physical hand is perhaps the most tactile part of our body with nerve endings that allow us to feel and touch and sense.Our hands are endowed with fine motor skills that enable us to write and sew and create and caress and throw a baseball. Spontaneously our hand reaches for the hand of another to give and receive love, to convey wordless comfort, to connect in silent affirmation of a deep, shared trust.
And it’s through our hand – the hand of our heart and soul – that God reaches out to us in the pain of our grief, “my eye grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call on you, O Lord; I spread out my hands to you” (Psalm 88:9 NRSV). God’s grace fills the empty hand of our life and being with divine strength and infinite care, “My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:8 NRSV).
I’m left-handed and I’ve always taken special comfort in the image of God’s strong right hand holding my left hand - my hand of greatest strength and greatest weakness. Leighton and I always held hands. God holds the hand once warmed by the energy and bond of our loved one, “The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand” (Psalm 121:5 NRSV). God never lets go of our hand, God never allows us to fall, “though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong, for the Lord holds us by the hand” (Psalm 37:24 NRSV).
We can’t see God’s hand holding ours, but we feel it when our heart is encouraged and fills again with hope. God knows the grief of our soul, God reaches out to hold us close and help us, “But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief, that you may take it into your hands; the helpless commit themselves to you; you have been the helper of the orphan” (Psalm 10:14 NRSV). In our grief we have only to extend our hand and allow the hand of God to touch our heart with the security and safety of God's perfect peace.
You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 16:11 NRSV
Keep me this day, O God, in the palm of your hand. Amen.