So do not fear, for I AM with you; do not be dismayed, for I AM your God. I will STRENGTHEN you and HELP you; I will UPHOLD you with my righteous RIGHT HAND." Isaiah 41:10
Why do parents or adults hold a child's hands to cross the street? To keep them safe right? Why do couples hold hands? To show affection towards each other. What else does hand holding say? It can say, "I will take care of you, I love you, I want to walk beside you and go through this together." This past month has been filled with a lot of moments that have brought me to cling to the verse above. On March 15th, my friend Paige and I moved into our own apartment. I've lived on my own my entire adult life, but there is something about doing this in another country that has been a bit scary for me. Buying all the things to furnish the place at different markets and stores and then trying to figure out how to get it to your place when you don't have a car, setting up accounts and learning how to pay bills, and dealing with some unforeseen problems with our power going out multiple times due to our water heater causing power surges. All this while trying to do this in Spanish. Thankfully, our landlord speaks English and so does one of our doormen, so they have been extremely helpful. Even so, it has been exhausting and overwhelming at times. I can't IMAGINE going through all this without my God holding my hand and encouraging me every step of the way, and I am so thankful that He is here with me.
"He REACHED down from on high and TOOK HOLD of me; he DREW me out of deep waters." Psalms 18:16
So, this whole hand theme got me thinking about other uses of our hands. What is the purpose of a hug? Why do people hug each other. To show affection, comfort, safety, love. Being that I'm here single, there are often times when I can go days without any physical touch from another person, unless you count squeezing yourself like sardines on a bus! It was something that both my roommate and I noticed. Did you know that there are actual health benefits to hugs and physical touch? There are many research articles that talk about how physical touch such as a hug can reduce stress levels by decreasing blood pressure and cotisol levels. It also can increase levels of happiness and joy because this input is received by the reward center in the central nervous system. It wasn't until one day when I was feeling a little sad myself and I was working at the orphanage that God told me that after working with each child to just hold them for a while and hug them. All of the kids let me do this. None of them pushed me away. The little boy Diego that I have spoken about before, who has a history of self injurious behavior including biting and pinching himself, gave a huge sigh, and reciprocated the hug. When I had to take him back, he looked like he was ready to fall asleep because he was at such peace. I can't tell you how much that hug helped both of us. What an amazing feeling to know that OUR GOD has this same affect on us? Isn't is wonderful to know that you can run into his arms and get this same comfort from Him?
"See, I have ENGRAVED you on the palms of MY HANDS." Isaiah 49:16
Have you ever written something on your hand so that you wouldn't forget it? I've done that my entire life. I know you are not supposed to, but sometimes when it is REALLY important, it is the only thing that I can do in order for me to remember. Surprisingly with this move into my own place, I have been struggling with more loneliness. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my new place and my space, but I sure do miss the fellowship and the security that came from living with the Peruvian family I was living with. This week, I had to try and return a whole bunch of shelves that turned out the be the wrong kind for our apartment. I was on a time crunch because the man who was installing them was coming back the following day to finish the job. Paige was busy with a group from the states and so could not go with me. I asked all the people I knew but no one was available to help on such short notice. It was the first time here that I have felt so alone here. I felt sad, annoyed and frustrated that I didn't have enough Spanish to go and do this on my own. I was actually pretty surprised at my reaction to something that really in hindsight was not that big of a deal. I realized it really wasn't about not being able to do something on my own, but more that I felt alone, and began to think of other possibilities for my future with fear of being forgotten. Then I read this passage above, and I realized that God will never forget me. He has my name tattooed on his hand. He will always be there when I need help by putting people in my life to help me when I stop trying to do things on my own and ask Him for help. It turned out that someone was able to help me that day that I needed to return all the shelves and I was able to get what I needed without any hassle.
This whole hand theme has not come at a better time. Today is Good Friday. The day that Jesus' arms were stretched out on the cross to take the punishment that we were supposed to receive for our sin. Words can not even describe the gratitude that I have for God's sacrifice of His one and only perfect Son, so that we can live in relationship with Him and hold His hand, receive His embrace, and have our names forever written on His hands so that we are never forgotten. So today, I will raise my arms high in the air and praise and worship Him for the ultimate sacrifice He gave for all of us.