Dr. Paul Brand has spent most of his life focused on helping leprosy patients. The study of hands has fascinated him, and led him to become a foremost expert and hand surgeon.
Philip Yancey is a writer and editor, who, after meeting Dr. Brand for other interviews, was privileged to see Dr. Brand's hidden manuscript on the parts of the human body and how they illustrate spiritual truths, and the way the Body of Christ, also known as the Church, relate to one another.
Together, with the suggestions of others, they polished this manuscript into the gem that they first published in 1980. I'd often read praise of it, but didn't get to read the book myself until just recently when it came into my hands as a small paperback reprinted in Great Britain.
What's important is the wonderful narrative. I thoroughly enjoyed this guided tour of our bodies. First there are seven chapters on the most basic cells in our body, and how they represent us as individuals. Some have very specialized purposes and functions, they all have great worth, and must work in unity to serve the greater whole purpose of our bodies. When they do not, when they form a mutiny, we have diseases that take our lives.
To be part of our bodies, and not just a blob of jelly, our cells need for some to form bones. Here again we see some marvelous thinking as God has created those cells to form a firm structure to give us shape, and the bone cells have just the right hardness and resilience to endure all kinds of hard work, but to keep growing and replacing themselves, and adapting to breaks and damage, and so on.
We do not realize the glories in our cells and bones, and skin, nor how wonderfully we are balanced for movement and walking, and accomplishing great feats, - just because all our cells work together so well.
When our cells do not, we have dysfunction, and one can lead to another and yet another, until we have multiple illnesses.
The most practical application of this profound knowledge, is how the authors illustrate with true stories of people Dr. Brand has known or met and served as a physician, that the principles which operate in our human cells, bones and nerves and muscles, also operate in the Church, which is the Body of Christ.
For a little paperback, this book is so chock full of good points I don't know which to choose for an example. Well, let me snatch this paragraph to show you;
In exchange for its self-sacrifice, the individual cell can share in what I call the ecstasy of community. No scientist can yet measure how a sense of security or pleasure is communicated to the cells of the body, but individual cells certainly participate in our emotional reactions. Hormones and enzymes bathe them, bringing on a quickened breathing, a trembling of muscles, a flapping in the stomach. If you look for a pleasure nerve in the human body, you will come away disappointed; there is none. There are nerves for pain and cold and heat and touch, but no nerve gives a sensation of pleasure. Pleasure appears to be a by-product of cooperation by many cells. (page 24, Chapter 2, Specialization)
Or this one on the compliancy of the hand;
Take a clattery hand of bone - such as the hand of a human skeleton on display in a biology classroom - and wrap it around a hammer. Against such hard surface, the hammer handle will contact only about four pressure points. Without my compliant skin and its supporting tissues, those four pressure points would inflame and ulcerate if I pounded the hammer just a few times. But because of compliancy, my entire skin-covered hand absorbs the impact. (page 133, Chapter 16, Compliancy).
Oh there's so much more! Like the experiment with monkeys and babies which discovered that both thrive and survive better if there is frequent sympathetic touch on our skin. Like the story of how he discovered that a man with leprosy had a tremendous grip in his hands, but couldn't feel with them to do up his sandals. Or the time he had to keep his hand in Mrs. Twig's mouth to staunch the bleeding of a major artery in the back of her throat, until surgeons could be ready to operate on her. Many little stories like that, tie the observations of Dr. Brand together and make this book fascinating reading for the lay person.
It caused me to worship God all over again! It shows up His great creativity and wisdom in the very details of how He designed us and made us to function within our bodies, and also within the Body of Christ, the Church universal.