“Meeeooww!” Sweep the cat is demanding food, again. He strolls up and down, yowling loudly, banging his head against your leg, jumps up onto the desk, nudges your hand with his head, then walks up and down on your work and if you still don’t respond, he lies down in the most inconvenient place, either over your work, or across the floor; if he really stretches himself out, he can cover an impressive metre and a half (5ft). Eventually, you give up and go to feed him. Sometimes, you get to his bowl, and he rushes forward, munching the food already down, and glancing up as if to say ‘How did you get it down so quickly?’ He seems to have lost both the ability to see or to smell the food unless he is less than 30cm (1ft) away. On other occasions, the bowl is indeed empty, so you go to fill the bowl; he watches through the cat flap, just in case some imaginary beast seizes his food, until you put the bowl down, then he rushes to the bowl, looks it over, and turns for his bed. He doesn’t ask again, and will get up later and eat without asking again; it’s almost as if he needs the reassurance, the comfort, of knowing that the food is there.
This need of assurance and of comfort characterises the children as well. We have a lovely picture of our two oldest boys as very little boys, both flaked out on the sofa, each clutching ‘Blankie’. Blankie was a cot blanket, blue for one and white for the other, seized and kept; assurance was found in the label, and then transferred to the whole blanket. For years, they couldn’t sleep without Blankie as it was worn into smaller and smaller pieces. Nathanael wore his two or three like a scarf, and buried a spare at the end of the sofa (a useful discovery later transferred to the TV remote). His last piece of Blankie was thrown away when he used it as a hankie! The grandchildren are just the same; all five have granted the arm-numbing privilege of falling asleep on me. Ben still needs his muslin to sleep, and Aedan had his ‘Stinky’ and ‘Smelliphant’, respectively a monkey and elephant rag he stuffed into his mouth to sleep, rendering them swiftly odiferous, hence their (parental) name.
If Sweep is doing what he appears to be, he’s seeking a more adult ‘comfort’; the children are content with the present moment. For them possessing Blankie, Smelliphant or the cuddling adult is all that they need; tomorrow will bring its own troubles, but that’s tomorrow! Sweep on the other hand is looking to know that he has supplies in for ‘tomorrow’ before he rests content. That concern is a characteristic that all adults know, sometimes to paralysing effect. We are so concerned about tomorrow, about what may be – but may not – that we forget to enjoy and value today. Yet it’s worth remembering that today is all that we’ve got; yesterday has gone, and tomorrow may never be ours.
In 1939, King George IV looked forward to the uncertainty of the Second World War, and quoted a poem by Minnie Haskins “I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he replied ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be better than light, and safer than a known way.’” When all the false assurances and comforts were stripped away and an uncertain future beckoned, the King called us to walk in trust, clinging only to God; we face uncertain times ahead, with the aftermath of the banking and trading upheavals, political instability and rapid social change, to name but a few. How then to step out in the face of an uncertain future?
Jesus offers some principles, and most are embedded in the ‘Lord’s Prayer’. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (The Bible, Matthew 6.9-13). He calls to walk with the Lord, committed to His will rather than our own, then proceeds to call us – like the children – to be content with each day’s needs, the blankie rather than the full food bowl. He presses us to keep short accounts with each other and with God, and reminds us how easily we are misled, turning a minor mishap into a deep pit from which escape seems impossible. He spells out our relationship with the two opening words, “Our Father” – is it scary? Well, yes! But our heavenly Father is there, and each time we curl up like the children, certain in our security because of our Father’s love, waking to face a new day in the light of His grace and strength.
Praying that as we enter the New Year, you may find the Father’s love in Christ Jesus, and so find in Him, strength grace and peace for each new day as you walk with Him.
Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ,