Hands

Today is Saturday, and today I am not doing church. Or service. Or school.

Not because I do not love these things – it has been a rich full week with only a little bit made of crazy – but because I need a life outside these things too.

It will not always be Saturday – in the long run, it is all too likely that Saturday will end up being full of bake sales and conferences and frantic last-minute sermon revisions. But I am coming to understand the necessity of scheduling one day apart where I rest from that part of my life.

So what’s today entailing? Some amateur theology on a Facebook group, and maybe some laundry and knitting, and if the sun ever comes out I may take up some of the yard work I started earlier this week.

I spent a chunk of Monday in the warm autumn sunlight cleaning out under the overgrown rosebush. It isn’t finished; I got about halfway through the job and my other commitments have precluded resuming the chore. It’s been needin’ doin’, as I might say.

The rosebush in question came with the house, and no telling how long it has been there, but there is a lot of it. I am not sure what sort of rose it is, save that it is a variety that thrives in the rocky soil and harsh winters here. Someone planted it up next to the house long ago, and it has grown far too big for the space, which is at the top of a steep slope above a retaining wall above the driveway. It is hard to reach the thing – nowhere really to stand, nor any level place to put a ladder, and the bush is dense with sharp thorns as old roses often are.

Someday I will learn the use of wearing garden gloves. But I have not yet, and I spent Monday morning with the shrub cutter and my bare hands pulling dead and inconvenient branches out of the thorn thicket. I made good progress, though there is still a lot of work to be done. And the rosebush, because it is a rosebush, fought back, and so by the time I was done with what I was going to get done my hands were full of scratches from the thorns.

Hands that bleed from getting done what needs doing.

Hands that bleed and keep going.

Hands that bleed and promise to come back for more.

And I do not want to go to the next thought that comes: the bleeding hands of God, of a human God. My community service site, where I’ve been going Fridays, shares office space with the local Catholic parish, housed in the building behind the nearest Catholic church that was parish school before the local parishes consolidated. I have never been Catholic, and my relationship with Christianity is tenuous and reluctant at best, and so I notice the iconography: in every room, somewhere, there is a Jesus – suffering on the cross, usually, or the resurrected Christ with beatific eyes and bleeding hands. I imagine that I, stranger, am the only person in the building who notices Every. Single. One. Of. Them. Every. Single. Time. I. Am. There. The one in the reception lobby jumped me the first time I visited – if statues can jump. (It’s getting smaller and easier to be around, but it’s up on a pedestal and still taller than I am.)

I will wrestle with this all year, I know.

And I thought about church last Sunday. We had an intergenerational service – meaning the kids were in Big Church instead of their RE classrooms – which presented the story of the physical universe, and the origins and evolution of life as we know it, as sacred mythology, with an emphasis on the interrelatedness of all living things and humankind as a part of that family. (I am wishing now that I had made better notes when I spoke with our DRE on Tuesday; she mentioned what sources she’d used for that service and I will have to come back and cite them when I remember.) And I remember the image of hands – a human and an ape, holding hands – so very similar, but not the same – and the words that our hands are the hands of the Universe doing its own work.

Our hands in the world are the hands of God: we are the agent and manifestation of that inexplicable transcendent Holy Mystery, the means-by-which the Eternal Cause and Ultimate End are connected (and are they not the same?)

And so, when the sun comes out, I will return to the rosebush in the garden and do the work that needs to be done with my bleeding human hands. Even when it’s not directly church work it still ends up being theology, somehow.

I don’t guess I can get away from this, and I’m not sure I want to.


 

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