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My Mother’s Hands

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” (Luke 13:34 NIV)

A few weeks ago, I was giving my kids a bath, looked down, and saw my mother’s hands. I wish I could say that my first reaction was positive, but it went something like this: “What? Where did those come from? When did I get so old?!”

But once I moved past my initial shock, I thought of all that my mother’s hands represented for me. I remembered the midnight hours I spent rocking my little ones, and imagined my mom doing the same for me. I thought of washing my hands dozens of times a day because of cleaning up every kind of bodily fluid, and realized my mother must have done the same. I pictured my mom washing my dishes when she visited after the boys were born, and thought of how many sinks full of dishes she’s washed for me over my lifetime.

How many Band-Aids has she applied to scraped knees, how many loads of laundry washed and put away, how many lunches packed? (Food is my mom’s love language. My friends in high school were both a little confused and a little envious that my mom still packed my lunch, and just last year when I was staying at her house for a conference, she packed me a lunch because I was running late in the morning!) Could there be any sweeter symbol of love than a mother’s hands?

But also, is there any love that’s easier to take for granted? We (hopefully) grow up so bathed in mother love that it feels like air; we don’t even notice it unless it’s missing. To really appreciate love, we must notice and accept it.

In Luke 13:34 (parallel to Matthew 23:27), Jesus compares himself to a mother trying to show love to children who didn’t want it. Jerusalem was waiting for a different kind of Messiah, a leader who would restore “the good ol’ days” of King David’s political power, so they missed the love he was offering.

If High-school Me had decided that I wanted to pack my own lunch or buy lunch at school like my friends, no one would’ve thought that was weird or unkind. Now that I think about it, my mom might even have appreciated being let off the hook. But because I didn’t ask her to stop, and she didn’t ask me to let her stop, I felt a little bit of her love every single day when I pulled my lunch bag down from my locker and opened it in the cafeteria, able to save the table for all my friends who were buying lunch.

It’s important to note that the Jews’ unwillingness to accept Jesus’ love didn’t stop him from offering it. He kept right on showing them until he died on the cross, the greatest expression of love the world has ever known.

So when I look down at my hands and think wistfully of when they were younger and smoother, I try to remember that they look this way because of all the love I’ve shown with them. I try to focus on the gift of this time, when my kids are still young enough that they want to hold my hands, and to imagine a time when my grown children might look back on the work of my hands and feel my love again.

Abigail can be reached by email here. Despite her resolve, she still recommends using sunscreen, applying lotion frequently, and wearing gloves while washing dishes.

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