When Israel was a child, I loved them, and out of Egypt I called my child… Yet it was I who walked toddling Ephraim, taking them by their arms; yet they did not know that I healed them. – Hosea 11:1 & 3 (A Women’s Lectionary for the Whole Church: Year W, page 202)
My granddaughter just turned 1, and she walks with that classic toddler wide gait, making the most of her center of gravity. She also loves to climb, as documented in photos my son and daughter-in-law share with us, swinging one leg up to get the leverage required. But the combination of walking and climbing is still a challenge; the other day they sent a video from their local park, where she took on some stairs with her father’s hands for balance.
In the larger context of this passage from Hosea, we learn that God loved the people of Israel, caring for them like beloved children, although they made choices at times to turn away from rather than toward God. Parental metaphors for God speak clearly to us; we have all been like my grandchild, in need of supportive and loving hands, especially at an age when we were mobile but without the experience or wisdom to understand our surroundings or know our capacity.
Being in the church right now can feel a bit like toddling. The world and our congregations have been changed by the pandemic. We’re moving unsteadily, suspicious of the surface beneath our feet, wary of the stairs ahead we need to climb, but even so inclined toward impulsive bursts born of excitement or impatience or fear. We will likely get things wrong; we may even fall. May we trust that God will be with us, even then.
Holy Parent, hold on to our arms as we toddle toward what’s next. Amen.