When I was a teenager I had lovely fingernails. I always had fresh nail polish on them, and they were long and strong. I even gave up on my desire to learn to play the guitar because I didn’t want to cut off my fingernails to do it. It was probably a vanity issue that I should have prayed about…but then, when you’re a teenager, EVERYTHING is a vanity issue!
Before I entered the vanity soaked teenage years, though, my nails were anything but lovely. I was a “biter.” When I was nervous, when I was excited, when I was bored, when I was hungry…I snacked n my poor innocent fingernails. I remember finally deciding it wasn’t very ladylike and I should stop doing it. I wore a rubber band around my wrist, and any time I would catch myself biting my nails, I would pull that rubber band taut…and let it fly. Man, that was painful when it hit the inside of my wrist. But it did the trick. I quit chewing on my fingernails, and they became (as mentioned above) quite beautiful.
I kept them nice and long and strong when I was a newlywed. I was very adept at giving myself a French manicure, and I took great pride in the fact that I had well groomed hands. (side note-that is a really lame thing to take great pride in. Well groomed HANDS??? My vanity carried into adulthood, obviously)
I didn’t do much that would hurt my masterpiece hands, but sometimes things just happen. When one of my lovely nails would break, I would cut the others off too, because the only thing I hated worse than short nails was for one to be different than the others. I would sit down sadly and mourn the loss of my perfectly cultivated finger nails as I clipped them.
And then I had kids.
The first time I scratched my squirmy little 3 week old daughter with one of my perfectly manicured fingernails…I got so upset that I hacked them all off immediately.
But it wasn’t a bad scratch, and it was an accident after all, so I let them grow back, and all was right with my world again. Fingernails are good for lots of things! It’s so much better to have an itch on your back scratched by someone with fingernails. And they are great for digging out splinters, popping zits, untying knotted shoe laces…I’m just saying, other than the accidental baby scratching, they are handy to have around.
But then I started noticing that they weren’t that strong anymore. I don’t know if it was hormones, or giving so many baths that the water weakened them, or what. But I had to work really hard to keep my nails beautiful after my daughter was born.
And then we had 3 more kids!
I don’t remember exactly when I gave up altogether on my fingernails, but it’s been a LONG time since they saw French tip polish. It’s been a long time since they saw ANY polish.
I do LOTS of yard work. I do TONS of dishes. I gave MANY baths. My fingernails have no hope of surviving all that. Paint would chip off immediately, followed by the nails themselves. And if that wasn’t enough…
I became a biter again. (insert gasp)
In an effort to keep this horrible habit at bay, I decided to keep my nails short all the time. Not that I could get them long even if I wanted to. But I DON’T want to. You know how hard it is to weed a garden with long fingernails? You know how much time you have to spend to keep them looking nice? You know how easy it is to get dirt, and food, and POOP stuck underneath them?
I’m just saying that long, lovely, ladylike fingernails have pros and cons.
I was visiting with a friend over the weekend and we were talking about we often feel like- in life- we are hanging on by our fingernails. (she has four kids too) She suggested that would be a good title for a blog post. It got me thinking, and the above fingernail dialogue is the result of my thoughts.
Except I don’t HAVE any fingernails anymore!!!! So I can’t use them to hang on to anything!
Obviously the term “hanging on by my fingernails” is not literal. It’s just a way we say ‘barely hanging on.’ It’s a metaphor. But it feels literal to me most of the time. When I hear someone say they are hanging on by their fingernails, I think of falling out of a tree, and clawing to hold on to the branch you managed to grab as you fell. I think of climbing a mountain, and slipping, and digging your nails into the dirt and rocks to hang on.
I think of Mufasa from the “Lion King” trying to claw his way up a vertical rock wall, and the close up shot of his nails digging into the rock…but finding nothing to grip.
That’s how I feel sometimes. Like I am clawing my way up a vertical hill with no fingernails to help me. And even if I had them, they would only last about five seconds. My fingernails have bad attitudes.
“You had us soaked in dish water for 20 minutes last night and now you expect us to be strong for you?” (snap) (crack) (rip)
“You were chewing on us this morning when your kids couldn’t figure out that school lesson. After all that abuse you really want us to HELP you?” (crack) (pop) Yes, my fingernails have smart aleck mouths. And they are quitters. And they are weak. And they are useless.
They won’t last. They won’t help me. They aren’t strong enough to help even if they want to.
Here’s what I have decided: My fingernails, both literal and metaphorical, are an extension of my SELF. My FLESH. My ability. My strength. An outward reflection of my inner being.
I can try and try and try to climb that rock wall, but with or without fingernails…Mufasa is gonna fall. I AM NOT STRONG ENOUGH to climb the cliff. My fingernails CAN’T help me, even if I grow them out and dig them into the rocks.
When I try to do it all in my own strength…I still fail. I still fall. I can’t make it to the top. I will end up falling backwards, screaming the whole way down, and get trampled to death by wildebeests. (okay, I may be taking this ‘Lion King’ analogy too far)
So I am not even going to try.
I am going to let myself fall.
Actually, that’s not true. I am going to jump!
And I am going to be caught.
And the One who is strong enough is going to carry me to the top of the mountain…and He is going to hold me in the thundering stampede…and He is going to breathe for me in the flood…
And when I forget to let go, and I try to claw my way through on my own, and I inevitably fall, and death feels imminent…
He is going to revive me.
I’m not saying you can’t have long, lovely, ladylike, literal fingernails. I am saying, spiritually, HACK THOSE THINGS OFF!!!!! They aren’t strong enough anyway. But He is! Go ahead and fall. Better yet…JUMP! He’ll catch you too.
Next time you see me, I hope you notice my junky looking fingernails. And I hope that you realize they are a physical reflection of my spiritual longing.
I want to decrease so that He can grow more within me. I want to be reminded that I can’t do it! I want to tell the world that…
I AM WEAK SO HE CAN BE STRONG! (2 Corinthians 12:9)
And that short fingernails are way harder to get poop lodged underneath.