I felt them in my wife’s tummy before they even entered the world. I knew them when they needed us for everything. I feel towards them a protective instinct that even I don’t always understand. It’s absolutely right and inherent that I do not want my children to suffer. Something would be wrong if I was ambivalent about it. But equally I believe it’s naïve to think that my children will not suffer in this earthly life.
I wrote a poem to express that desire and longing, whilst wrestling with the utterly compelling narrative of 1 Peter 1: 3–9, that, under God, difficulties have a purpose: Peter calls them ‘little while’ trials, as our souls are being saved for an inheritance kept for us in heaven.
Whilst we wait for our inheritance, I ask God to give me a sincere love for each of my children: joyful, patient, faithful in prayer, rejoicing with them when they rejoice, mourning with them when they mourn. Like Peter, I want to remind them always that in Christ they have everything they need, for this life and for the life to come.
Should you be wondering, the poem’s apple trees and churchyard wall can be found at St Aidan’s parish church, Thorneyburn, a remote spot in Northumberland, in the far north of England. The swing isn’t there anymore. That’s OK.
Little While Trials
Between apple trees and church yard wall,
a simple wooden slat suspended,
hung by faded red blue rope.
Push, and watch you gently turn.
All the while you question me:
Why are bad things there?
Why do nettles grow?
Why does God let people die?
Too young yet to understand.
Each push brings a cry inside.
Child, I do not know why.
I bring questions too:
Child, what will it do to you?
What hand to hold fast?
Will you be held, child, by grief, by time,
by vanity; dissatisfied, lost?
Get you behind her Satan!
Yet my spirit knows a deepness still
to which I dare not commit.
The irrepressible desire
of my flesh heart is
for your immunity, forever
safe from nettle stings,
turning on this gentle swing.
Spirit! Intercede to ask
that grieving, child, you yet rejoice.
That you will receive your Lord,
who saw you questioning me,
who brings to my feeble heresy
suffering so scarring, so complete
that though you grieve and no answer comes,
your salvation does endure.
Child, may your lips bring praise.
Child, may I be
one to not obstruct your way.
Featured photo from Tarset, UK community page