On a recent Wednesday morning I stepped carefully along the sidewalk, wet with recent rain and downed blossoms, which turns its way through the campus of the seminary where I work. I crossed the small main street and entered the tiny stone chapel, its bright red doors closing behind me. I sat in the still silence, waiting as the community gathered, one by one. Eventually we sang, we confessed our sins, we passed the peace, we heard the Word. When it came time to shuffle from the pew and wait in line for the Bread and the Wine, something magnificent happened.
The woman standing next to me in line, the wife of the celebrant handing out the communion wafers, held in one tired arm a fussy baby with rosy, wet cheeks. A small, brown-haired girl with pigtails and dark eyes clung to her other arm, and walking ahead was a son, the tallest of the three, leading the way. I glanced at them, collecting each smile, all of them different in small ways: the mother’s tired, the little girl’s exuberant, the little boy’s proud.
When they came to the father, the little boy waved and whispered quietly, “Hi Daddy.” The father answered, “Hello buddy,” and his smile conveyed unconditional and absolute love. The little girl beamed with joy at the sight of her father. Even the baby calmed. I watched as the father forgot momentarily his duty as celebrant and slipped into his natural role as proud father. And it was in those few seconds when he could not help but feel overwhelmed by love for his children that I saw and felt and knew the love of God more clearly than I have in a very long time. I am thankful for this family and for the love they share. I am thankful for a God who loves us so unconditionally and absolutely. I am thankful that on some days, God comes so close—so very, very close.