Friday, October 14, 2016


October 13, 2016 "Look at these hands," he lamented. "Girly hands, they are. Too soft from doing dishes." For most of his life, those hands had been hard with callouses, knuckles scarred from too many times when the wrench had slipped; trophies of a mechanic's life. In his younger years, those hands had bloodied noses, held a steering wheel in a vice-like grip as he manhandled his number 59 through the turns at places like Dayton, Darlington, and Daytona, when the latter was still a beach course. I remember seeing those hands grab two high school football players who had challenged him. With lightning speed, he snatched the front of their uniforms and lifted them off the ground, pinning them against the wall with their feet dangling. His daughters still tell stories of when he was driving school bus and would throw an unruly rider over his knee to deliver a few well-placed whacks that had an immediate calming effect on the perpetrator. Those same hard hands placed his daughter's hand in mine more than 46 years ago, knowing it took more strength to let go than to hold on. He continued his mechanical work after retirement, but the years took their toll and the time eventually came when his wrenches sat gathering dust in his workbench drawer. Finally, to his lasting disgust, they grew soft...girly hands. We have photos of those hands clasping the tiny hands of his great-grandchildren. All except the last, who was born after he died. I looked at my hands this morning. I've never had the bone-crunching grip he had, and as for callouses...I'm working on one on the side of my right index finger. Bit by bit, it's toughening up for playing the bass. I remember the first few times I played. After just a few minutes, my finger was begging me to quit. I didn't, and now I can play for quite awhile before I have to call it a night. Those callouses are a blessing, allowing me to do what I want to do, just as gramps' callouses enabled him to wrestle with engines, drivetrains, and tires. There is however, one place we don't want callouses. A calloused heart is a danger to anyone unfortunate enough to have it, and to those unfortunate enough to be nearby. Just like calloused hands, a calloused heart is the result of constant abuse, gradually building up layers of insensitivity till it is unable to respond to love and kindness. It is too easy for those who have been abused, bullied, and used to develop a calloused heart that inures them from giving and receiving love. We all have experienced those blows, that constant abuse that hardens the heart. So we all need to pray for God's Holy Spirit salve to soften those callouses till we are capable of feeling once again. I am grateful for the lessons of gramps' hands, and for the single callous that's growing on my index finger. And I am grateful that God in his mercy has kept my heart tender, that I may empathize with others, and respond with mercy and grace to those in need.

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