Friday, June 22, 2012

... when hardness blocks the light

What to do with calloused hands ?

This morning as I fellowship with Him on the porch in the rising sunlight so precious and warming me through (I love only few things on this earth more than I love sunlight), I had a few souls quite close as they hammered and measured my neighbor's roof, calling out fractions and equations back and forth to one another in dizzying number-tornado.  Their hands are calloused by the work they do every day, and they are so skilled that I'm led to praise Him for such craftsmanship.  

The callouses on their hands reminded me of another kind of callous - that which appears on a child's hands after too many swings on the monkey bars.  A few years ago I was a recess aide, and therefore the go-to for many children who brought blisters oozing and callouses deepening to my eyes for healing.  And what can one do for that?  Only a brushed kiss (I know, it's a little gross to kiss the playground-sweaty hands of a strange child, but what can I say, I'm a kid-kisser; it's just what I do), and the only fix I knew to offer: "No more monkey bars for a while. Take a break. Go play something else."

And then Jesus sweeps me away in memory of other callouses ... on the hands of my dad.  My dad was a machinist and his precious hands that held me and touched my freckled, soft cheek were so very rough.  Dry and cracked.  Often wounded from one bang or another cut from sharp metal in the shop.  And the callouses on his palms and fingertips - I've never seen any so thick, so deep, so hardened by time and work and use.  Oh how I loved those beautiful, leather-ed hands.  I don't ever remember retracting from his touch; I only remember wanting to be held. 

I stop my memories for a moment to catch my breath and my grief... but it's not tears today.  

And the Spirit pushes me into the recesses of my mind once again.  I remember putting my soft white hands around his first two fingers, and that's the way we would walk everywhere together.  The little girl remembers it was that way because my hand was too small to hold his whole hand ... but adult years make me wonder if he held me that way, not for my inadequacy, but for feelings of his own.  Did he offer only what he thought I could bear, for fear more of his roughness would be too much?

And callouses stand in the way of some things very precious.
He said, “Go and tell this people:
“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
    be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ 
 Make the heart of this people calloused; 
    make their ears dull
    and close their eyes. 
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears, 
    understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”   - Isaiah 6:9-10 (NIV)

Blinded eyes, squeezed shut.  Deaf ears, plugged with calloused fingers.  Closed to truth, unperceptive and un-receiving.  Headed for doom and darkness. So far away from the Light.  

This was me.  Once before I knew Christ, and even to some degree again since, a time or two.  

And is it true hopelessness, or is does Light truly penetrate every darkness? 

"Only to the eyes of unbelief does the devil have the upper hand" -John Piper

And what can one do for that?

Stop doing the thing which causes the hardness.

God's people had chosen to live in darkness and practice it and even work in it daily.  Their sin became the very job and desensitizing, hardening profession of their hearts.  They were so blinded, so numb, so deaf that their only hope to find belief again in the healing light was to stop.

Callouses can be important for work, and God can use a carpenter's or a machinist's or a gymnast's callouses for His glory as work is accomplished with excellence.  But callouses of the heart are another story.

If my recess kids want soft, tender hands that don't blister and bleed, they're going to need to choose to stay away from the monkey bars.  

Likewise if I want to keep a soft heart, I'm going to need to stop heading into the darkness and seek with all diligence that which is light.  Even in the chapters of our lives when God has us in a pit.  Our only choice is to look up at the light and wait to be rescued.  Even when it seems like sin consumes and tempts and feels precious... our only hope is to open our hearts, lift our eyes to the blinding sun and look once again, pull our hands away from our ears, empty them of all self-serving control, and raise them to God for His healing kisses.

And what better salve than that?

God, here are my hands, and here is my heart.  I choose to stop the work of sin that hardens me.  Heal me, I ask.  

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