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I thought it would be another typical busy Sabbath for the Gil family. Sabbath School was nice (we’re Seventh-day Adventist, so the Bible-study classes are Sabbath School, not Sunday School); the youth class had been full with friends and visitors. My mom and dad were running to and fro as usual with their regular Sabbath duties. I picked up my little brother and sister from their classes, and we made our way to the sanctuary to sit in our regular pew. As always, I saved a seat for my mom.

The intermission song service had started; the music was cheerful and upbeat. A few minutes later, my mother arrived. Mom sighed as she sank into the seat beside me, probably glad to be off her feet after teaching the Beginner’s class but ready to enjoy the praise service. I grabbed her hand and gave it a good squeeze, assuring her everything would be all right.

Since we are a very “touchy, hugging, affectionate” family, it’s not unusual for me to hold my mom’s hand during the service. But this time was different—this time as I held my mother’s hand, I noticed something for the first time—my mom had calluses on her hands! This realization touched my heart.

When my dad became a minister more than 14 years ago, Mom set her career aside and chose to work beside my dad and be available for him and for us kids. As we grew up and attended parochial school, it was obvious that two incomes were needed. So Mom, as she puts it, “exploits everything her hands know how to do” so she can be her own boss and have the flexible schedule she needs to be available for ministry and her “angels,” as she calls us.

Mom’s hands reflect the hard work she had been doing for so long. As I tearfully lifted her hand to kiss it in appreciation for all her sacrifices, she looked up at me. Of course she asked me what was wrong. I told her that I had felt the calluses on her hands and that I was so grateful for all she does for us.

Never one to pass up the opportunity for a good object lesson, Mom used that moment to help me understand the cost of my salvation as I never had before. Sure, my parents had taught me that Jesus loves me and that He came to earth to die for my sins so that I could live forever. I was baptized when I was 10, and I asked Jesus to be in my heart forever. But the words my mom shared with me that morning will live forever in my heart and mind.

She said to me that one day soon I would hold Jesus’ hands and feel the nail scars in His hands. Then I would really cry tears of joy and gratitude for the sacrifice He had made for me. She said I would understand a little of the pain God the Father felt, allowing His only Son to suffer such a terrible death to save me. She told me how Jesus, in His humanity, wrestled with fear and doubt in Gethsemane but heard my voice calling out to Him and decided that I was worth any sacrifice. She said His hands symbolize all that He sacrificed because of His love for me, and His hands are the ones I should cherish.

Mom then looked at me intently and said that I should live my life to honor the sacrifice Jesus made for me and for anyone else who responds to His offer of eternal life. She added that the choices I make in my life should always bring glory to Jesus, the One whose hands and feet bear permanent scars as a reminder that He gave all for me because of love.

I can’t remember what my dad preached about that day, what songs the congregation sang, or anything else about the service. Instead, I reflected on the lesson my mom had just taught me, another lesson learned from my mother’s hands about Jesus’ love.

Matthew Gil writes from Concord, North Carolina. Reprinted by permission from Shepherdess International Journal.

My Mother's Hands

by Matthew Gil
From the March 2005 Signs