'But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.'You said, '...the right to become children of God' didn't you?
A while ago I was watching my littlest daughter Katy as she made her way into a party she was going to. We were a bit late (as always) and so the room was already full of boisterous five year olds when she went in. There were half a dozen grown ups there as well, and I felt quite awkward making conversation for the short time it took Katy to take off her coat and shoes and locate the birthday girl to offer her the slightly dog-eared gift that had been enthusiastically cradled all the way there. I was happy to kiss her goodbye and retreat to the safety of the car for an hour or so until it was pick up time.
Katy, on the other hand, skipped into the room with confidence despite the fact that a game was already underway and the children were in two teams.
Every night after school Katy throws her shoes off in the hallway and marches off to demand a snack. She is home.
The other day her big sister was off school (because the day before she was sick on the Deputy Head - but that's another story) and they missed each other badly. All day Lizzie was asking, 'When will Katy be home?' and when she arrived back Kate dived through into the kitchen shouting, 'Lizzie, I'm home! Everything's alright - I'm here!
She is so sure of her welcome. And not just at home, where you'd expect it.
I am in awe of such simple confidence. Long, long may it last. I could never bring myself to ask such a question for fear of the possible answer. Katy has such security in her membership, her equality, her personal value - her right to be there - that she exudes contentedness and enjoyment of her surroundings and people respond warmly to it. She is pleased to be there.
And it made me think.
'But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.'
That's me. I believe, I accept. I therefore have the right to be a child of yours.
I am a child of the living God. I can approach you ('Bold, I approach, th'eternal throne...da dah, da da da...' and so on) and I can say, 'Hello Daddy, here I am!'. I don't have to sidle in the room, or creep, or cringe. I'm not there under sufferance, or just visiting, or by some loophole. I am loved and wanted and encouraged to come in and make myself at home.
I am allowed to approach. I am a member. I am accepted.
I am welcome.
I have the right to be your daughter. Not because of anything I did; far from it. But whatever the terrible and amazing equation, I have the right. You gave it to me, because you want me in the family.
This is my fundamental identity; I might be a wife and a mother and a daughter and a sister and a friend and a...a...whatever else I might be, but most significant is that I am a child of God. This is Who I Am.
That's a membership that beats all others. I need not be intimidated at the school gates, or in a roomful of strangers, or at the grown-up equivalent of the fifth birthday party. My Dad is indeed bigger than their dads.
Chin up, then.
I belong with you. Yes, I am here, for now, because this is where you want me, but I truly belong elsewhere.
My home is with my Father, and my family, and one day when it's time I'll be going home, where I am sure of a welcome like no other.
I will kick off my shoes and walk boldly into that house and I'll find my snack.