The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

In my Father’s arms

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It was a few months ago that one of my sons had an accident. He was playing outside the house and he caught his finger in the gate of one of our neighbours. I was out at the time, but when I got home my wife asked me to take a look at it (I am usually the applier of plasters and anointer with Germolene [a sort of universal palliative, for those who don’t know it] in our household). One glance told me that something was amiss – more accurately, askew. The nail just didn’t look right. The brave little guy, who deals well with pain, was pretty robust, but we decided to head down to the local casualty/walk-in centre. Being a child (barely turned three years old), William was seen quite quickly, and the nurse also took one look at the finger and informed me that he would be seen tomorrow. Being dull of wit, I asked what she meant.

“He will be admitted to hospital tomorrow for an operation to re-attach the nail to the nail bed in the hopes that it will grow properly,” she said.

“Oh,” I said, “thanks.”

So, with Will’s finger well bandaged and a fairly cheerful grin still on his face, we headed home as I tried to explain what would happen. Will is not familiar with hospitals, and the place with the specialist plastic surgery stuff was one that I have rarely visited. We spent a few hours trying to prepare him for what was coming, and tried to take the edge off by making a song and dance of the packing, and making sure he had a good meal (nothing to eat in the morning before the operation).

It was cold but fairly dry in the morning. Will was pretty pale and dopey as we loaded him into the car complete with the books and toys that we had selected to make the whole process as palatable as possible. He looked . . . small. The ride to the hospital went well, and we even discovered that there was no parking charge on Sundays, which was a pleasant bonus. The nurses were great, and the doctors proficient as they checked things over. A couple of hours ticked past as we waited for more urgent surgeries to be completed.

Then it was Will’s turn. He got to ride his bed through the hospital as I walked alongside, holding his hand, turning through corridors first erected to provide shelter for RAF pilots suffering from burns and other wounds inflicted while fighting in the skies over Britain and elsewhere. We were ushered into a fairly clinical room in which the anaesthetic was to be administered, and they inserted a cannula into his small, pale arm. They asked me to hold him, and told him that this might hurt a bit. Like I said, he’s a fairly tough little kid, and barely flinched when the cannula went in. The lower lip of this proud father trembled a bit at his bravery.

Then the anaesthetic. You need to talk to him, they said. Distract him. William wanted me to sing. His favourite CD at the time was a collection of Christmas folk songs, so I sang an ancient version of “Hark! The herald angels sing.” They told me to hold him because once the drug went in he would go very floppy. He sat on my lap and smiled at me. They inserted the syringe in the cannula. “Hold on,” they said. “Hold on, son,” I said. “Cradle his head,” they said, and began to inject.

My vulnerable, pale little boy looked up at me as he lay in my arms, listening to me sing. I was very conscious that there was very little that I could do for him; I was weak and helpless myself, and here he was trusting in me. He flinched as the cold fluid began to pour in – “It’s OK, Will” – glanced over, and then looked back. His gaze barely wavered. They could have been doing anything to him, putting anything into his body. It did not seem to matter to him, because Daddy was holding him. He was in his father’s arms. I felt the effects of the anaesthetic, and there was a horrible moment – a sort of choke – when his breath seemed to catch in his throat, and the song died in mine. He went utterly limp. I don’t know if I will ever forget laying him back on his bed.

I prayed quite a lot over the next hour or so, waiting for the surgery to be completed and to be allowed back to see William, and I could not help but see certain parallels between his experience and mine, lessons which I need to relearn in my life as a son.

They could have done anything to William, but he was content, because he knew I was holding him. With a sort of perfection of childlike trust, he knew that I would not allow anything bad to happen to him. Is this the disposition our Lord commends when he points to the example of children in the Gospels? If my son can be at peace in my weak arms, under my limited gaze, how much more ought we to be able to rest safe in the everlasting arms of our heavenly Father? And do I not have an even better example than William? I know another son. He had more insight than William, more awareness and understanding, and far greater suffering. He was dying, and in the hour of death he wrestled with unfathomable agony of spirit. But he trusted, and when he died, he bowed his head and said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Lk 23.46, quoting Psalm 31.5).

And so, there may be great threats about me. There may be dangers of which I am entirely unaware. There may be enemies surrounding me. Sufferings may be my portion. Pains may wrack my body and soul. Death itself may be upon me. But I need to look up with eyes and faith unflinching, and I need to trust. After all, I too am in my Father’s arms.

If you appreciated this, you might also find this hymn profitable.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 3 February 2012 at 15:30

One Response

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  1. Thanks Jez. Even big boys, especially big boys, need to learn this lesson. Blessings.

    Matthew Holst

    Sunday 5 February 2012 at 12:55


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