On the morning when Hannah first arrived, as I held her in my arms for the first time, I told her,
You are my child,I will love you and I will take care of you.
Our Father holds us in His arms in like manner everyday. Before we even acknowledge Him and even after we deny Him, in His grace, He tells us:
You are my child.
I will love you.
I will take care of you.
I will never forsake you.
Many years ago, my wife used to make regular visits to the speech therapist for Jonathan. It was a painful period for the family as Jonathan made very slow progress for a very long time. While the children around Jonathan talked, we prayed and many times wondered when Jonathan would talk, if he would ever talk. We shared our pain with several parents whose children also could not talk but for the most part, this was our grief that we bore alone. Or so we thought.
Recently, while my wife was cleaning our some old stuff, Jonathan, who eventually learnt to talk, told us that he recognized the old bag. He said that it was a bag that my wife used to carry when she brought Jonathan to the speech therapist. At a time when we were grieving about Jonathan, we thought we were alone. Actually, Jonathan was not just an object of grief. He was fully aware of what’s happening and had memories of the period. We were not alone. Jonathan was with us.
More than that, Jonathan and us were not alone. God was with us.
One of the things that Jonathan does when we reach church on Sundays is to check out the hymns in the service order and then put bookmarks in the hymnal. After that, he will pass me the hymnal. One morning, when I was the service leader, he did the same and came to the front to pass me a hymnal with the bookmarks. Forgetting his acts of devotion, I told him that I already have a hymnal with me. He told me that the hymnal in his hand is specially prepared for me. I remembered and took it from him.
Although I could find the hymns in the hymnal by myself easy enough, Jonathan’s act of devotion touches me.
We do not have to think very hard about how to show our devotion to our Father. It does not have to be something expensive or very difficult. It is the devotion and the love in the act that our Father sees. He cherishes our little acts of devotion.
Many years ago, Jonathan could not talk. It was not just that he was younger and did not talk. He could not talk at an age when most of his peers were able to talk. We took him to doctors to test his hearing and also took him to many speech therapists. Thus began a long journey of therapy. Amongst the many advice we got, one was for us to learn sign language. While he would not talk, we could encourage him to communicate with his hands.
We bought books on sign language to learn to communicate with him. Years later, I still remember some of the hand signs. One day, when I showed a girl some hand signs, she asked why would anyone who can talk, learn sign language.
The answer was father’s and mother’s love. If Jonathan could not talk with his mouth, we were prepared to learn a new language to communicate with him.
In the same way, our Father loves us dearly and would not give up on us. If we are not ready or able to come to Him, He would come to us.
As a new parent, I was constantly observing Hannah and Jonathan for their first step moments.
The first photograph I had of Hannah walking was in a park. There was a piece of leaf in her path and she looked like she was approaching a big hurdle.
The first time Jonathan wore a tie, he wore it on his neck, instead of on his shirt collar.
Last Monday, Jonathan made his first prayer. It was not the routine ‘Say Grace’ prayer which he usually rushes through.
On Monday, as I was putting both of Hannah and Jonathan to sleep, all of us heard a strange sound that sounded like a chirp. “What’s that sound ?” Hannah asked with alarm in her voice and sought reassurance.
As I was trying to figure out what the sound could be, Jonathan, with eyes closed, uttered his first prayer, “Father in heaven, please don’t let any bird get inside the house. Please don’t let any animal get inside the house. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
I was bemused with his innocent prayer and made a mental note of his first prayer.
Our Father too watches us with bemusement and anticipation as we take our first steps in the different areas of our life and faith.
On occasion, I like to carry a camera and take photographs of my children for keepsake.
Over the years I have accumulated a big collection of pictures.
In this collection, there are some that I like more than the rest.
There was a picture I took of Hannah and Jonathan walking in the park. I like it because I like to see Hannah getting along with Jonathan and walking as sister and brother. I like this picture so much I printed and put it on a wall in my house.
There was another picture I took of Hannah walking with her friend walking in the church playground. They were walking as good friends, deep in a conversation and she had her hand on Hannah’s arm. This picture warms my heart because someone was taking care of Hannah.
The next time we get to spend time with our brother or sister, the next time we get to take care of a friend, we might get an opportunity to be remembered on a wall in our Father’s house too.
When Hannah was born, one of the first things we did was to count the fingers and toes. One of her ten toes, was crooked. This caused us some concern, until one day I checked and found that I too had the same crooked toe.
Jonathan does not have a crooked toe. He, on the other hand, is crazy about Angry Birds. In the time that we allow him to play the game, he finished all the levels. Besides the game, he also loves the Angry Birds notebook, Angry Birds plastic file etc.
This is his latest interest. In general, he is very interested in all things computers – Blackberry, iPhone, computers, GPS – … a little like his father
When I see these little bits of myself in Hannah and Jonathan, I smile fondly.
When our Father sees a little of Himself in us, He too smiles and grows a little more fond of us.
We recently celebrated Hannah’s birthday. The pleasant surprise this birthday was two of her friends gave her birthday presents a few days before her birthday.
I took an interest in the givers. The first to give her the presents was a girl who took note of her birthday last year and this year happened to sit next to her. She has a very good command of the Chinese language and scored high marks in Chinese and Moral.
The second girl was a prefect who used to go on duty with her last year. She remembered her birthday because hers was a few days earlier.
Because the gifts were unexpected, I took a special interest in these two friends.
Long after they have given and forgotten the gifts, a father will still remember the givers.
I received this from a friend
I asked God to take away my bad habit.
God said, No.
It is not for me to take away,
but for you to give it up.
I asked God to make my handicapped child whole.
God said, No.
His spirit is whole, his body is only temporary.
I asked God to grant me patience.
God said, No. Patience is a byproduct of tribulations;
it isn’t granted, it is learned.
I asked God to give me happiness..
God said, No.
I give you blessings;
Happiness is up to you.
I asked God to spare me pain.
God said, No.
Suffering draws you apart from
and brings you closer to me.
I asked God to make my spirit grow.
God said, No.
You must grow on your own,
but I will prune you to make you fruitful.
I asked God for all things
that I might enjoy life.
God said, No.
I will give you life,
so that you may enjoy all things.
I asked God to help me LOVE others, as much as He loves me.
God said… Ahhhh,
finally you have the idea.
Both Hannah and Jonathan are growing up. Part of that means I send both off to school in the mornings. After I send them off, I like to walk past their classrooms to look for them. If I find them, I like to pause and observe what they do. Sometimes on a good morning, Hannah would be standing at the window, watching for me to pass her window. When we see each other, we smile and wave at each other.
Sometimes I pass her window too early and she is not at the window. But if she goes to the window and sees me just a little distance away, she calls, ‘Daddy’ to get my attention. Then we smile at each other.
I cherish these morning encounters. A father cherishes memories of his children calling him ‘Daddy’.