I will never forget my trip to North Carolina for my niece’s third birthday. Though I only get to see her every few weeks now, during the first year of her life Kensley stayed with me for several hours almost every day. As I fed her, changed her diapers, sang to her, read to her, played with her, we developed a strong bond. When I walked into Kensley’s birthday party this year, I immediately heard her excitedly yell, “Stacy’s here!” She dropped the toy she was playing with and sprinted across the room to jump into my arms. Laughing, I hugged her tightly, so glad to be on the receiving end of this joyous greeting.
As adults, few of us would greet a loved one in quite this same fashion. For one thing, we would worry too much what other people would think of us. And even more importantly, we would be afraid of how our loved one would receive this display of affection. There is an underlying fear of rejection that often makes us hesitant to say or show how we really feel toward another. “What if he pulls away from my touch?” “What if she doesn’t say she loves me too?” Such things did not go through Kensley’s mind. The thought of my rejecting her would be unimaginable to her. She had complete trust that I would catch her when she jumped into my arms, and that I would be as happy to see her as she was to see me.
We often approach God with the same tentativeness that we would another person. We wonder how God will receive us. Will we be rejected? Can we trust God to love us, even when we have done things that make us feel unlovable? God desires us to approach with the same joyful abandon with which Kensley approached me, in the same spirit of trust. We can count on being accepted, no matter what, because God’s very nature is Love. The Hebrew scriptures are filled with references to “hesed,” a word with no good English translation. It is most often rendered as “lovingkindness,” “steadfast love” or “neverending love.” This is not something God does, but the defining element of God’s character. We can run to God knowing that we will always be welcomed with open arms.
O Thou who has ordered this wondrous world, and who knowest all things in earth and heaven: So fill our hearts with trust in thee that by night and day, at all times and in all seasons, we may without fear commit all that we have and hope to be to thy never failing love, for this life and the life to come . . . Amen. (from “The Book of Worship”)
-- Chaplain Stacy N. Sergent