When Israel was a child, I loved him,
And out of Egypt I called My son…
I taught Ephraim to walk,
Taking them by their arms;
But they did not know that I healed them.
I drew them with gentle cords,
With bands of love,
And I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck.
I stooped and fed them. (Hos 11:1, 3-4)
From my parents’ retelling of childhood stories, old photographs, recollections and memories of the past, I can piece together some parts of my childhood. And some things, though unsaid and un-narrated, I can recall. Because both my parents were working when I was a year old or so, I lived with my maternal grandparents for the first few years of my childhood after I turned one. Inherent in those years was an old memory, or rather an old feeling I recall – a constantly longing I had for my absent parents while we were apart, especially my mother. Though there was nothing more I could ask for while I was under my loving grandparents’ care, I often missed my parents and would sometimes fall sick because of that, according to my grandmother. I had everything I needed or could ever want, but I missed my mother. That feeling is hard to describe. But it did make me a pensive child in my earlier years.
When we are well fed and have all our material and physical needs taken care for, we think we are happy. That this is the happy life we are meant to have in this short life, that it is the best for ourselves. Is that what life is all about?
But soon we realize that there is something missing in our lives – the fact that we are not truly happy. As we grew up and became adults we reconciled ourselves to what is second best and think that there are many things which are better for us – material things, physical security, our achievements etc. But the contrast is stark when we look back in retrospect and compare our present physical comfort with what we first had when we first entered this world. The idyllic memories of our childhood with our then young parents and the heat of their love, being enfolded in their strong arms when we were sleepy; the constant warm and fuzzy feeling some define as being loved and loving back, deep contentment on all levels, a little paradise on earth. And then we grew up, got independent and the fuzzy feeling’s gone and we realize the thing we’ve forgotten, what was important and what actually defines our lives: being with the ones whom we love dearly.
When God chose Israel out of the surrounding nations and adopted her He loved her (Hos 11:1,3-4; Eze 16:3-14). But when Israel grew up she went and worshipped false gods, contenting herself with broken cisterns instead of the living water (Ezek 16:15-30, Jer 2:13). Israel forgot the One who first loved her and whom she loved – the love of her life. She forgot what it was like to be with the One she loved and who loved her. She forgot to walk humbly with her God, which would be bliss on earth mirroring the heavenly bliss which was to come. She settled for second best.
Today, are we like ancient Israel, forgetting our love of a lifetime? Will we do the same as she did? Will we indeed settle for second best?
Let us not choose as she did. As Christians, God ought to be the One whom we love dearly and we should be with Him and walk by His side.