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Topics: Family, Spiritual Formation

Her beautiful hands

May 28, 2014

by Candice Watters

I have a picture in my mind of my Nana’s hands. As she aged, her skin got thinner, her veins popped up more from the surface, and they seemed bluer. She always kept them soft with lotion–like well-oiled leather–and I loved to stroke them and pull her skin up like raw skin on a chicken breast. She would laugh and chide me. Hers were the hands of a grandma who had worked hard and loved much. Hers were the hands young women are paying hundreds and thousands of dollars to avoid.

The weekend Style section of the New York Times spotlights a trend among well-heeled women to spare no expense to have model-like hands for their “engagement selfie.” It’s not enough to post a picture of your diamond ring, aparently. What’s necessary now is a perfect hand to display it on. The woman featured in the story sports a 3.9 carat diamond. 3.9 carats! Yet what’s on the mind of Marie Valencis isn’t, “Wow, my man must really love me to want to lavish such a gift of a ring on me! He must really want to marry me! I need to show my friends and family this extravagant symbol of our love!”

No. Sadly, what’s on her mind are the several sunspots that showed up in a picture of her hand. “When I saw a picture,” the story reports, “I thought, ‘Oh, it doesn’t look very smooth, plump and youthful.…I wanted a hand makeover.” The story goes on:

Age spots, veins or a bony appearance (or, horrors, all three) have become an obsession for some women. And as with all obsessions, there is a price to be exacted. In Ms. Valencis’ quest for that perfect selfie of her diamond-adorned hand, she contracted for a series of six intense pulsed light (I.P.L.) and chemical-peel treatments and two syringes of an injected gel substance called Juvéderm Voluma XC for a total of $3,000.

Albert Mohler says of this article, and the worldview it represents, that “It is a denial of the beautiful to insist that everything has to be, by our passing and very artificial standards, pretty. …We have swallowed a poison pill of prettiness at the expense of true beauty. We must,” he says, “guard against swallowing this same poison pill.”

On my Nana’s left hand she wore her wedding ring–a slim white gold band with seven tiny diamonds. Widowed when my Mom was only 12, she wore that band till her death at age 90. I’d turn it round her finger as she reminded me that when she was gone, the ring would be mine. Her hands mesmerized me.

How many loads of laundry had she folded? How many dishes had she washed? How many diapers had she changed, and in later years, how many letters had she written to me while I was away at college? Hers were hands well used. She worked hard as a single Mom to support her three children. And she worked hard at loving us, her grandchildren. Hers was worthy work. It’s work I’ve taken up in my own life.

How many loads of laundry have I folded? How many dishes washed? How many diapers changed? Unlike her hands, mine are rough and impervious to lotion. Once I had fingerprint cards made for a potential job in the investment world. Apparently all my time in the dishwater had rendered my prints illegible. They asked me to try again. Still the creases and cracks interrupting my print pattern made them unreadable. I gave up on investments and took up writing instead.

What should mark a Christian woman’s hands is not how they look, but what they do. Mohler says hands that look less than magazine-cover perfect come from “doing the kind of work that is honorable. …By doing the kinds of things that demonstrate that these hands were made for some kind of use, not just for an engagement selfie.” In Scripture, the hands of the wise woman are frugal, fruitful, and industrious. In Proverbs 14:1, we read that “the wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.” Proverbs 31 praises the excellent wife who “considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. … she puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. … She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy” (Proverbs 31:16, 19, 20).

Expensive cosmetic treatments for our hands, says Mohler, is based on “a toxic assumption: that artificiality is preferable to the real. … In the Christian worldview, the good, the beautiful, and the true are always united. Where they are divided, something has gone horribly wrong. This headline,” says Mohler, “is evidence of the confusion between what is pretty, and what is beautiful.

My Nana’s hands never saw more than a quarter of a carat. But she used her hands to hold me, and later, let me stroke them and even play with her stretchy, sun-spotted skin and blue veins. My Nana’s hands were beautiful. I wouldn’t trade those memories–or those hands–for anything. I loved my Nana’s hands. Which is a blessed thing, because increasingly, they look like my own.[]

(Note: That’s my hand pictured above, in its natural state, with my Nana’s ring.)

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