A hand model.
That’s what my mother wanted to be.
To shine some light but not actually be in the light. To partake in the fashion world yet still remain private, unexposed. Her face hidden.
She took hand modeling classes to learn all the proper poses. To practice the most photogenic hand-curvature positions like how to elegantly hold a writing utensil, how to effortlessly pass a wine glass, how to gracefully display an expensive piece of jewelry.
And she could have been one too.
Her hands were exquisite. Almond-shaped, beautifully-manicured nails fitted to long, slender fingers that stretched out for days. They were the kind of hands you’d expect to find on a professional pianist or possibly a Hollywood celebrity. Magazine-cover worthy. Even her skin was perfect. Porcelain, pure and smooth. Not a scar, not a wrinkle.
That is, until the swelling began.
Until as a young woman in her early thirties, her knuckles began to ache and throb. Her fingers turned red and enflamed. She could no longer hold a single cup of water without it falling and splashing all over the kitchen floor. She knew then she was in trouble.
Doctor after doctor told her she was fine. It was stress. Not enough sleep. Too much cooking or cleaning with harsh chemicals. Until one referral finally led her to a kindly specialist who gave her the accurate diagnosis.
And right then and there, my mother’s dream of becoming a hand model died.
Have you ever had a dream die?
I mean really die. Like the lethal-injection kind of die. Like the charred steak never-to-be-made-juicy-again kind of die. Maybe it happened suddenly. Maybe it came slowly. Fizzling, sputtering, petering out to nihility. Either way, that flame that once flickered, that hope and light of promise that once burned bright is now nothing. Nothing but vaporizing smoke fumes of hopelessness and disappointment and despair.
Oh, the emotions of such a moment!
Do you know what I mean? When we realize what we’ve wanted for forever will go unrealized. When we’re forced to accept what isn’t acceptable to us at all. What do we do with these feelings? How do we process this? How do we grieve, grapple, mitigate, recalibrate our hearts in the wake of such a soul-crushing blow?
That’s a question for the ages.
For Moses’ age, in fact. Because if there’s anybody who could be the poster child for unrealized dreams, it would be him. Moses never got to enter the Promised Land. The Israelite’s fearless leader never saw for himself the fulfillment of God’s promise, never stood in land flowing with milk and honey, never marched around the walls of Jericho until they crumbled down, not while alive.
You’d think Moses would have earned it. I mean handholding such a complaining throng of Israelite ex-slaves through the Sanai desert should warrant anyone a front row seat to the show.
Shouldn’t forty years of service more than compensate for that one angry stick-strike he made against a water-filled rock? (See Numbers 20:1-12 for the recap.) How can four whole decades of faithfulness not neutralize Moses’ one single emotions-got-the-better-of-me moment? It was a very human mistake, one we all might make.
Because that’s not how dreams work.
Sometimes we make mistakes, even just one. And sometimes other people make mistakes for us, which end up costing us everything. In fact, sometimes, if we’re brutally honest, life just happens—disease, divorce, discrimination, dismissal, disowning, death—and when it does, we have to watch our dreams unravel faster than the string-bound ripped cover of my mother’s used hand-modeling textbook.
Still, there is hope.
Even when our dream dies in our eyes, it’s never dead in His.
Jesus cares about our unrealized dreams. He holds them in the palm of His hands. He holds them right up against His openly compassionate, abundantly loving, endlessly beating heart. David understood this, which is why he wrote in Psalm 56:8,
“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” (NIV)
Jesus wasn’t called a “man of sorrows” for nothing, after all (Isaiah 53:3). He wept in John 11 at the death of His beloved friend Lazarus, even while knowing full well He would soon resurrect him. Jesus wept because the dreams of Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ two sisters, lay dead in a tomb. He wept because He hurt when they hurt and because He, too, knew what it was to feel deep down, soul-drenching pain.
But Jesus also knew the whole story.
The bigger picture of eternity and mortality all mushed up and squished together.
You see, Jesus understood Mary and Martha’s (and all our) temporal perspectives. He feels our loss deeply, but it doesn’t dissuade him from implementing God’s plan. From letting Lazarus die. From letting our dreams sometimes die too.
Lazarus’ death was the only way to display to a crowd of soul-hungry sceptics that He had the power to resurrect. To resurrect Lazarus, first. But also, to Himself resurrect from death on a nail-driven cross. It was the only way to truly infuse hope. The only way to inspire faith. Faith in His love. Faith in His power. Faith in His salvation work, which paves our path to a heavenly Promised Land for all eternity.
By the way, if you’re thinking about Moses right now, that’s good. I hope you are because God resurrected his dream too.
Think about it.
High up on that mountain at the transfiguration stood Peter, James and John. Alone with Jesus these three disciples watched as their Teacher begin to pray. Then out of nowhere came this earth-shattering sight:
“There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.” (Matthew 17:2-3)
Did you see what that says? Do you really see it?
Moses stood right there! There, with his steady, heavenly feet planted firmly on the Promised Land. There, in all his transformed, new-body glory. There, He stood fulfilling his dream, right where God had wanted him to be all along.
God had not forgotten Moses’ heart or his dreams. God had not let them die. Instead, He resurrected them through Jesus. God fulfilled Moses’ dream in His timing and in His own glorious way.
In a way no one else could.
I think often about my mother. About her crippled, crooked fingers that never signed a single hand modeling contract on this earth. Whatever she’s doing in heaven right now, I’m certain her hands are on display. Maybe they’re holding children. Maybe they’re splashing water up from the river of Life. Maybe they’re raised high in praise to Jesus. Whatever they’re doing (and even though jealousy isn’t supposed to be a thing in heaven) I’m convinced every eye that sees them can’t help but have a twinge of wishful desire.
Oh, to have hands like that!
Because those hands every day remind me of Jesus’ hands. Of His nail-scarred, calloused, loving hands. Hands that can carry the weight of all our sin and still have room for our unrealized dreams too.
Redeeming hands, resurrecting hands.
Hands still resurrecting.
My dreams. And your dreams too.