Those of you with weak stomachs put down your sandwich now.
From the news recently: “People leave a unique trail of germs” WASHINGTON (Reuters) – People leave more than fingerprints when they touch stuff — they also deposit a tell-tale trail of germs that could help investigators solve crimes, U.S. researchers reported on Monday. They were able to map a unique bacterial genetic signature left by nine different people, and said this germy DNA lasted though day-to-day temperature changes, humidity and sunlight. “Each one of us leaves a unique trail of bugs behind as we travel through our daily lives,” Noah Fierer, a researcher at the University of Colorado at Boulder who led the study, said in a statement.
Researchers have been learning that people are colonized with billions of microbes, both inside and on the body. And studies have shown that these colonies are unique to the individual and even to the place on the body … The University of Colorado team had previously found that a typical person carries about 150 bacterial species on the hands, and that any two given people only share about 13 percent of these different species … And unlike non-native disease-causing germs, they are not dislodged by standard hygiene. “Palm surface bacterial communities recover within hours after hand washing,” the researchers wrote.
Do you still want that sandwich? Are you looking at it a little differently? How about the keyboard, the mouse, the doorknobs? The hand extended in friendship? This “germy” discovery is both interesting and a little disturbing … but is it really news? Does it really change anything?
We all know that we leave a trail behind us for good or for ill. We all know that our hands are tainted – stained – by our own particular sweat of sin and impurities. There are some parts of our lives that go by relatively unscathed, but others that are continually sick and suffering. And no matter how hard – how diligently – we try to scrub ourselves of it, the same sins just keep coming back. And as so often happens, we can’t even see the trail we leave behind … at least not until it can be measured by its effect on others (parents of preschoolers going from one sickness to the next know what I mean!)
As much as we might hate to admit it, the trail of sin we leave behind us is one of the surest ways of knowing who we really are, and where we’ve truly had an impact. (As parents of preschoolers trying to un-learn certain of their own words and behaviours in their children can attest to!)
Yet consider another pair of sin-stained hands … the hands of Jesus. Perfect, spotless, without sin or stain or impurity, they never-the-less bore the full colonization of this world’s sin and impurities. Yet where our hands leave behind a trail of suffering and sorrow, His hands in bearing that suffering and sorrow upon the cross leave behind an all-together different tell-tale mark. It can be seen in the hands and the lives of those who belong to Him. For along with the bad that is often left in the long trail behind them there is also great good. Tell-tale signs of a life not measured by the sin in it, but by the Saviour over it!
And again, it is a trail that we are not always able to see except long after the fact, in the effect it has had upon the lives of those whom we have touched. The kind words, the prayers so freely offered, the moment of compassion, the act of forgiveness, the gifts of time and service … such are the life giving trail left behind by those whose lives have themselves been identified through the nail marked hands of Jesus. And even more than our germy following, this mark of Jesus upon our lives is a trail that impossible to erase.