When I was a little girl, about four years old, I had to go into hospital to have my adenoids removed.
Now I was four years old quite a long time ago! Back in the days before parents were allowed to spend uncomfortable nights in armchairs by their children’s hospital beds. Back in the times before day surgery; when even relatively minor procedures meant a week or more in hospital.
My dad took me to the hospital and I can still summon up the horrifying image of his back as he walked away from me down what seemed to be an impossibly long ward. I can still hear my own wail as I leapt out of my hospital bed and raced after him.
My dad carried me back to my bed and gave me a cuddle before he tucked me back in and said he had to go. He told me he knew I was afraid but that I would be okay; the nurses would look after me well and he and mum would most definitely be back for me.
And then he gave me his handkerchief (that’s how long ago it was – men carried ironed handkerchiefs in their pockets!). He said, ‘keep my hanky and every time you touch it or look at remember you will be okay and I will be back for you.’
I still cried when he walked away but I held the hanky and its promises tight and stayed in my bed.
That started a tradition in my family. A strange tradition that’s for sure - having a hanky pressed into your hand, or popped into your suitcase or tucked inside a book at moments of crisis or difficulty.
In my family, Daddy’s hanky became a reminder that even when things were tough we’d get through and no matter what was happening in life mum and dad were always our mum and dad; they’d always come for us!
As I grew, I saw my parents’ love for me as a reflection of God’s unfailing love for me; I could see that behind mum and dad’s commitment of being there for me was the promise of God’s constant presence. And in my parent’s confidence that I would face tough stuff and manage, hey, even thrive; I eventually saw God’s pledge to help weave something beautiful out of even the darkest places in my life.
Now, I know our own homes and family relationships are not always good and happy places. They are not always safe. Sometimes our mum and dad don’t come back for us. And sometimes we wish they would stay away.
And that’s why God invites us into his family; God calls us his children; like a good father and a loving mother he longs to gather us together as his children; like a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.
God longs to gather you under his wings and show you that his love for you will never fail; he will always be with you and he will make weave something beautiful in your life.
I hope you know the comfort of being a child of our good God.