But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. Is. 43:1
There is this wonderful little board book entitled Hug that I just read to Martha Jane before her nap. It really only says the word “hug” all the way through as a little baby gorilla points out other animals hugging and slowly goes from delight to sadness as he realizes he isn’t part of their hugs. Then, mid-book, you read, “Bobo!”, followed by, “Mommy!”, and then they too get to have the hug Bobo was increasingly missing. As emotions often do, mine snuck up on me when I read that universal longing for one’s parent and the great safety and comfort of being in her or his embrace. The sense of belonging that a child has with a parent is a powerful force. I thought about little Martha Jane and what she might one day feel, similar to Bobo, when she looks around and wonders about her biological Mommy. And I was overcome with the need to tell her, with a smothering of hugs and kisses, “You are so loved, little one. You are so very loved.”
This is what the LORD says: “The people who survive the sword will find favor in the wilderness; I will come to give rest to Israel.” The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. I will build you up again, and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt. Again you will take up your timbrels and go out to dance with the joyful. Jer. 31:2-4
This past weekend, we had the chance to spend just 45 mintues at my favorite beach in the world. We had just enough time between breakfast and Ellie’s first soccer game to get over there from Savannah and let me run on the beach from our usual summer residence there to the south end of the island and back to the car. The south end of the island might be the physical location where I feel closest to God. At low tide, you can walk a good ways out over rippled sand toward little Tybee and look back feeling you’re millions of miles away from the land. You can yell or sing or cry and nobody can hear you but God (and the passing birds, I guess). The beauty, restfulness and solitude are what my busy mind needs to see more clearly.
On one of my many days in Uganda which included a long wait in the U.S. Embassy’s waiting room, I took extra time to soak in the pictures on the wall that displayed “Life in America”. Admittedly, they were a bit funny and probably not exactly what those Ugandans in this waiting room, hopeful of admittance into our country on various visas, would experience. But the picture that made me cry there in that waiting room was the one that I least expected to see there, a photograph of a beach on the coast of Georgia…live oaks, spanish moss, golden sun and inviting beach. My happy place, my home and the place I felt furthest from waiting in that room wondering when I’d ever be given the green light to return.
So, when I reached the south end of the island Saturday, just like my reaction to Bobo in his mother’s embrace, I was surprised by the eruption of my emotions. I didn’t just tear up a little, I sobbed to the point of wondering if I might be having a stroke. I was light headed and messy…and grateful for the solitude and privacy to be so. He brought me back. I was home.
Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the LORD called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name. He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver. He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.” But I said, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing at all. Yet what is due me is in the LORD’s hand, and my reward is with my God.” And now the LORD says— he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD and my God has been my strength— he says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” This is what the LORD says— the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel— to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: “Kings will see you and stand up, princes will see and bow down, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.” This is what the LORD says: “In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’ “They will feed beside the roads and find pasture on every barren hill. They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water. I will turn all my mountains into roads, and my highways will be raised up. See, they will come from afar— some from the north, some from the west, some from the region of Aswan.” Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. Is. 49:1-13