Our friends Ruan and Gwenda live near a strip of nature reserve – a luscious greenbelt of veld with a docile stream and some meandering buck. And a porcupine. Almost nightly they are woken by the agitated barking of neighbourhood dogs, and there it is: mooching determinedly down their street in all its bristling glory – enormous, quite awesome, nibbling flowers on manicured, suburban front lawns.
Our friends Eric and Shirley have been trying for four years to start a family. (I share this with their blessing.) Four years of waiting rooms and tests and fertility procedures and being happy for the birth of other people’s babies and hope deflated.
The porcupine and the baby-making got me thinking.
How thrilling that there are still porcupines roaming the streets of our nation’s capital. In the hurry of a trafficky city, a porcupine can still brave forbidden petunias in the silent, sleeping hours of the night. Hopkins wrote, ‘The world is charged with the grandeur of God… And for all this [i.e. the mess that the human race has made of the planet], nature is never spent; There lives the dearest freshness deep down things…’
We pray and pray and pray with Eric and Shirl that the grandeur of God would be manifest in them – that they would know the terrifying ecstasy of bringing a brand new parcel of dearest freshness into this beautiful world of pollution and porcupines.
But I’ve seen God’s grandeur in Eric and Shirl in another way. For all this – all the waiting, all the pain – their trust in God is never spent. Sure, they’ve questioned his plans and purposes for them. Sure, they’ve been hurt and angry. But in them – image-bearers, God-chasers, Jesus-lovers that they are – there lives the dearest freshness deep down. They dignify the trial. They make it inexplicably beautiful, and they inspire the instinctive admiration of those who watch their lives. They wear their suffering with grace and tender patience. They offer broken-heart sacrifices and in so doing they broadcast how blessed it is to surrender all to a wise, loving, powerful God.