Cracked heels and broken nails

I’ve got mixed feelings about my hands and feet. They don’t look a lot like this for a start:

My feet – never much of a fan. I mean, I don’t have a foot phobia like a couple of friends I could mention, but I’ve never found anyone’s feet very attractive and I don’t particularly rate my own. That’s probably all the detail I’ll go into on that.

My hands – feelings vary.  I quite like my hands for being little, except when it gets me mocked, and I like that a bit of skin is different colour, and that there’s still a red dot there from the anaesthetic needle that went in when I was four. But really, how I feel about my hands depends a lot on the state of my nails. If you saw my last post, you’ll have seen a picture of my nails when they were doing fairly well. When they’re bitten and nasty, I’d rather keep my hands out of sight.

My feelings might change though if I thought of them as Christ’s hands and feet.

The idea has been on my mind since our last Core Group meeting for the Church of England Youth Council, in which we were discussing how to incorporate social justice issues into a theme for the next full council meeting in April. The theme that we settled on was “Hands and Feet of Christ”, and we wanted to make sure there was time in the day to unpick what that means for us and what it would look like.

As well as being obviously related to Paul’s image of the Church as the body of Christ (presumably including hands and feet!), the image is taken from a poem by St Teresa of Avila, written in the 16th century:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.


It’s one thing to think in general, abstract terms that as the Church we’re Christ’s ambassadors in the world. I tend to think that means it’s my job to look mildly offended on his behalf when someone uses his name irreverently. We’re Christ’s body, sure. That’s a handy metaphor to remind us that we’ve all got different roles to play. For instance, for a normal Sunday morning, one person makes the Powerpoint of song words, another clicks through it during the songs, and another apologises afterwards for the wrong verses being shown at the wrong time. It’s Christian team work. It’s easy to think in those terms about being Christ’s representatives or his body.

But Teresa’s poem catapults the idea uncomfortably close to home. I can see my hands now. I can see my feet. These physical limbs, bits of body that I use constantly, all day every day, these are the pieces of bone and muscle and blood and stuff that Christ has chosen to use to do his work on earth. Fortunately, not only these ones; thank goodness for the rest of the Church. But all the same, he’s chosen these ones.

So if Christ were to have exclusive use of my hands, what would he use them for? If he were living my life just as it is, what would he be doing with them? Would he be writing a blog post right now? Or would he be working in the local homeless shelter? Would he be holding the book I’m meant to be reading for tomorrow morning’s class? Or would he be texting back the friend I haven’t spoken to in so long?

What about my feet? Would he walk as quickly to lectures as I do, swerving in and out of the crowds on Cornmarket to avoid as many charity collectors as possible? Would he be walking towards people or away from people? To friends or strangers? Would he use my feet to be more committed to getting places on time and keeping commitments? Or would he use them to stop, to be interruptible whenever people need time? Would he walk alone around my college lake more often, to get space to really talk with his Father? Or would he invite another wherever he could so as not to waste an opportunity to love and encourage?

That’s all just for now… Where on earth would he take them next year? Would he take these feet travelling around the world, using the hands to serve as many people as the feet took him to? Would he reaching out with human touch and comfort to forgotten children across the globe, taking them food and walking alongside them? Or would his steps be a little more contained within a parish, walking from house to house and stopping a while to really spend time with people? Perhaps he’d rather walk the same route each day to an office, using his hands to earn money, so he could give and serve with much more than before.

If you can see obvious answers to those questions, I’d love to hear your thoughts; if the answers are there, I’m missing them at the moment. What strikes me though is the sheer number of opportunities I have to use my hands and feet in the every day to show compassion and to bless. Which particular opportunity I pick at any one time seems to matter less than just picking something and doing it. Many aren’t mutually exclusive, and perhaps if I were to start thinking just at one point in a day, “how might Jesus choose to use my hands and my feet in this particular situation, journey, opportunity?” then I might just find myself thinking that way more naturally. Perhaps I’d learn to live a life in which my hands and feet were constantly tools for Christ’s work, when I was consciously thinking about it and when I wasn’t.  In the mean time, I’ll need to start asking that question more consciously. Where would you start? Does it matter what we choose to do with them in any one moment, or just that we do something through which Christ encourages and blesses and serves and loves?

My feet are really nothing special to look at (hence the lack of photo of my own…) and my hands don’t look out of the ordinary either. But if I were to allow them to be used in each moment as very ordinary, physical, weak, vulnerable, human hands and feet of Christ, then they’d be something really remarkable. Perhaps then each broken nail, cracked heel and little toe rubbed raw and blistered wouldn’t just be embarrassing imperfections on my limbs. They’d be signs that Jesus was getting good use out of them.

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About Claire

@claireylegs Keen on Jesus. Keen on justice. Ministry assistant in the Great North East. Blogger. Find me in: coffee shop / church / pub / bed.
This entry was posted in Evangelicalism, My life and faith. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Cracked heels and broken nails

  1. matt2801 says:

    I like the sound of the theme for the next CEYC. This blog should be part of the background reading before we go.

  2. Claire Jones says:

    Ha, thanks – is there ever background reading?!

  3. matt2801 says:

    Yeah! Of course there is. Didn't you read the draft constitution? There usually are some papers for the motion discussion.

  4. Claire Jones says:

    Oh right. I'm still new at this CEYC stuff remember 😉

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