God Is in Her Hand

John Samuel Tieman - St. Louis, Missouri
As heard on the This I Believe podcast, February 9, 2015
John Samuel Tieman
Photo by Ron Jennings

Some think love comes from the mind or the heart, but St. Louis teacher and poet John Samuel Tieman believes love is in the hands—such as the hands of a cherished spouse, or a talented craftsman. Tieman says we can find the sacred in human touch.

Age Group: 50 - 65

When I was a young teacher, I used to baffle my students by asking them to prove that their hands exist.

And while my youth was in many ways both sophomoric and churlish, I take from those days the conclusion that the obvious is difficult to prove. Take God, for example. When I was young, I could touch God. The God of my youth was bland granite with eyes chiseled open and blind.

But first thing this morning, I found God in the indolence of darkness.

I can recite “the Nicene Creed” in Latin. I believe every word. But my “Credo” fails to explain why I make no distinction between saying the “Hail Mary” and making love to my wife.

I use the terms “God” and “love” interchangeably. But these concepts I merely ponder. As for belief, I believe in acts of love. I believe that God asks me to fill the empty hand of the beggar. I believe that God poses the question every time I see the hand my student raises. I believe that I find God as I type the poem, the one I begin without knowing where I will end.

I can tell you what I believe. But I’ve reached an age where I don’t care what I believe. Because I believe that love is not found in the mind or the heart. Love is found in the hands. Love is in the nightly back scratch I give my wife. My wife kneading the dough, that’s love. Love is in the hand that crafts, sculpts sews, caresses, soothes.

That’s where God is. That’s where God is the most obvious. In the hands. In my religion, Roman Catholicism, the hands of the priest are especially dedicated during his ordination. If I could, I would sanctify the hands of everyone. I would bless the hands of the nun who teaches the child to write. I would bless the hands of my wife as she e-mails to me a joke. I would sanctify the hands of the clarinetist as she plays the Mozart concerto.  I would consecrate the hands of the carpenter who shaped our simple dinner table. I would bless the hands of our dinner guests.

I do believe in a love that sails the Caribbean in a honeymoon yacht. But just now, just this day at age fifty-five, this morning, I have come to believe in a love that begins when my wife gently awakens me. Because God is in her hand. In the hand that caresses my shoulder in the morning. The hand that encourages me, simply, to open my eyes.

John Samuel Tieman is a widely published essayist and poet. His latest book of poetry is "A Concise Biography of Original Sin," published by BkMk Press of the University of Missouri at Kansas City. He teaches in the St. Louis public schools.