When I remember how protective I was when I first became a mum, how determined I was to make sure that my baby knew he was loved at every moment, I know I was naïve. I thought that I’d be able to do that with my own willpower and determination. I didn’t foresee the day that I would know that bringing up children is a group effort: that “it takes a village to raise a child” as the Nigerian proverb says.
As we are getting ready to move on from our current ‘prayer stair’ in Yorkshire, hoping to find a new one in Bath, I am giving thanks for the people in my ‘village’ who have made the parenting job easier, and actually, better. I’m thinking of volunteer football coaches, teachers, babysitters and Cubs leaders. I’m also thinking of the parents of our sons’ friends who have shared lifts and friendship.
In the ‘village’ that is our church family, there have been amazing volunteer leaders in lots of different groups, who have shown real care for our boys, too. What stands out, though, are the adults who have made a point to speak to our kids, even when they weren’t on duty. Research has shown that the thing above all others that makes children and young people feel at home in a church community is the warmth of inter-generational relationships. Adrian, pictured here, is among others, a shining example of exactly that kind of kindness that points to God’s love.
But it’s not just kids that need a village. I’m aware of just how important my ‘village’ has been to me in recent days, a village that includes those who live nearby but also those who are connected in other ways. The doorbell rang a couple of days ago and I answered it to find a smiling lady offering us an unused packing box. Some biscuits appeared on our doorstep the next morning and a friend offered to take me for a coffee and to pray for me. Yesterday, a beautiful home-made Advent calendar arrived.
In this time when we really don’t know what is coming next, these gestures of kindness mean everything. A couple of weeks ago, I’d had a some bad news concerning the details of our move and almost instantly a text from a friend followed saying that she was praying for me and mentioning Psalm 46, which reads in part
God is our refuge and strength.
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
…The Lord Almighty is with us…
Another friend said that when she was praying for me this song came to mind: Jesus, who we follow, sailed on some changeable seas himself, but he kept true to his purpose, living out God’s parental love for everyone.
Perhaps I too often expect that the seas will be calm for us. The truth is that life is stormy at times. We aim for the shore that we think God has called us to, but sometimes it involves a firm grip on the helm and lots of resolve to keep the boat steady. God turns things to good. God’s been good to us through our ‘village’, God’s been good to us through the stormy seas, God is going with us into the future.