A few weeks before my father entered a long term care facility, he had reached into his billfold and handed me two five-dollar bills. Then he said, “I wish I could do more.” I was struggling financially at the time, but was taken completely by surprise at the unexpected gesture of love and concern. My father was dealing with an entirely different issue. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease six years earlier, the illness had not only affected his body, but also his mind. At that moment, I realized how differently this painful time in my life, might have gone if my father had been well. I experienced care from my Dad, in a way that I had never known from him, as an adult.
Ten days later, I would hardly recognize my father as the disease ravaged his body. It was one of the last lucid conversations I had with him. I have treasured it ever since. Whenever I try to tell someone the story, tears will spring to my eyes.
Knowing that someone cares about you can have a powerful impact on a life. We do best, when we are surrounded by loving care. God speaks through the prophet Isaiah saying, “I have called you by name, you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1 (NRSV)
The wonder of it all is that God not only knows our name, but claims us. Our own lives can be completely messed up. People who should care about us may be in so much distress they cannot see our need. I’ve heard too many painful stories of family stresses, parents who can’t connect to their children and spouses who have forgotten how to love. I’ve left counseling sessions bewildered by the strange way we treat people who are closest and dearest to us. I have been appalled at the lack of compassion or concern by family members when a heartache has occurred. I’ve heard stories that break my heart when I cannot comprehend the indifference of a parent toward a child, or a child toward a parent.
The scripture tells us that even when those who ought to be expected to care for us fail, God will never stop loving us.“Though my father and my mother forsake me, the Lord will take me into his care.” Psalm 27:10 (REV)
I give thanks that God is one who is always near, who always cares and to whom we can always turn.
*A version of this post was previously published on January 15, 2015 as “God Knows our Name.”