Outstretched hands

Now when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue.  And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand…Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”  And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other.  (Matt. 12: 9-14)

Fr. Lev Gillet, in his book called, “In thy presence”, writes about the everyday gestures of Christ and their possible meaning for those seeking to become Christ-like – His getting up, His ability to read, His need to wash, eat and drink, His need to leave His home to do His work in the streets and in the fields, His need for rest.  Fr. Lev’s meditation does not go to the place where we often go when we think about imitating or being like Christ, believing that we could imagine what Christ would do if we were Him.  You know, that old WWJD question.  He sees this as a fruitless question, as a question that looks for a difference between us and Christ by focusing on His human abilities rather than examining the way His fully divine nature interacts with His fully human abilities.  “What Would Jesus Do” is a question that cannot possibly be answered outside of our imaginations – a highly unreliable source of truth.  It is a question that seeks a black and white or right and wrong answer, leaving us trapped in our minds going through a discursive process of thinking rather than staying present and embodied in the moment, and in the hope of God’s presence with us.  It also leaves us frozen in paralysis because no one has time to question and think through every gesture or every action.  This is especially true in a classroom setting that demands a quick flow of response to many needs and situations.

Instead, Fr. Lev suggests an alternative question as one that is much more fruitful and inspirational.  Rather than imagining what Christ would do, ask yourself in what spirit he would ALWAYS be performing the gestures that you are actually making or that you will need to make.  In other words, all of our actions have the potential to bring us into union with Christ if we are conscious of how they can and should be qualified by the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, long-suffering and self-control.  Out of the heart, the mouth speaks and the hands act.

It is inspiring to think about the many ways Christ used his ‘outstretched hands’.  We are sometimes so focused on His words as recorded in the gospels, that we forget every aspect of His body was in union with His Father and the Holy Spirit, and vital to sharing the good news.  He immediately stretched forth His hand to Peter in the storm, He took the daughter of Jairus by the hand and raised her up, He took a blind man by the hand and touched his eyes, He healed a deaf man by placing his hands into his ears and touching his tongue, He blessed his disciples with his hands, he held young children in his arms.

I don’t get the impression that Christ planned these events or spent a great deal of time thinking or making agonizing decisions about what to do, but His hands were always ready to respond in a way that brought healing, strength, deliverance, peace.  He was so in union with the Father and the Holy Spirit that His hands couldn’t help but be miraculous, couldn’t help sharing eternal life with all He encountered in ways that couldn’t possibly be misunderstood.  Even though His gestures were often enhanced with words, they didn’t need words to communicate truth.  In fact, I think that often the words were more for the observers and mockers than for the ones being healed or saved.  What could words add to the true gift of life, sight, sound?  How could those who were healed or delivered not know that Christ was the Way, the Truth and the Life?

When I think about how important it is to qualify my teaching gestures with the Holy Spirit, I become aware of how often my hands act in unqualified or indifferent or irreverent ways.  My hands are often out of control and graceless even when outstretched, because I forget to stretch my hands out to Christ first.  When my outstretched hands are not conditioned or made whole by the Holy Spirit, I am actually preventing Christ from reaching out to the person I am gesturing towards, my hands become useless to God, withered.  And the opposite is also true.  Stretching out my hands to God is also lifting up my heart for healing.  This is the stance of true prayer – hands lifted up to God bringing our whole bodies in submission to Him.   As God heals my heart, my withered hands become healed.  The gestures of my ‘outstretched hands’ can then share the life of Christ.

Kimberly Franklin

The purest gold, the hottest fire

A high percentage of teachers quit after just a few years of teaching.  For a select few, it might be the right choice.  For the majority, more perseverance could have seen something miraculous occur.

The learning curve is steep, just like on a hike, but the view from the top is worth it.  We feel our reserves dwindling away during the climb, but at the top of the mountain, our confidence, strength, and vision are refreshed.  We return conquerors.

I empathize with those tempted to quit.  Feeling absolutely spent one afternoon after a very hard day during a very hard term, my head hurt too much to focus and I was getting nothing done in the supposedly productive after-school hours.  I locked up my classroom and started my drive home.  I am blessed with a beautiful drive over the Golden Ears Bridge.  It’s worth the money as God continually surprises me with breathtaking clouds painted with gold, silver, and red on their pilgrimage up the valley.  Today it was grey, like the rest of my outlook, and on the inside I was arguing with myself, testing whether fight or flight would win out.

“Look, God”, I told God, “I need you very much right now because I feel I am at the end of my rope.  I need your perspective and I need a reason for continuing to do this.”  I felt without hope and wasn’t in the mood for positive-self-talking myself out of it.  That’s why I knew that the next phrase I heard wasn’t me.  “Aren’t you honoured that I trust you, out of everybody, with my beloved children?”  God said some other things as well, but he had me at “trust“.  The tears began to flow and a weight lifted from me.  I returned the next day with refined perspectives, having rested in God.

Many people give up on the process they are going through because it is hard.  They sacrifice long-term growth for short-term ease.  Failing to appreciate the big picture, they mistakenly focus on the temporary discomfort they are experiencing.  But the purest gold is produced in the hottest fires.  Paul the apostle knew that well.  What is happening is refinement, and we will be better for it.

“I lift up my eyes up to the mountains, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1,2)

by Craig Ketchum ’10

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