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Can you remember anything about your first days at school? Your first classroom or teacher? At best I remember bits and pieces, snatches of moments from my first weeks at Camperdown Primary School in Western Victoria. Like standing on the asphalt for morning assembly and singing, ‘God Save our Gracious Queen’ whilst the flag was raised. Like the little glass bottles topped with silver foil of (warmish) milk brought to our classroom at morning recess. Like playground equipment with no soft fall whatsoever, and the acorn fights that would break out at recess time. And as those years unfolded, epic games of lunchtime footy and cricket, and in grade seven, sneaking my first kiss with Sharon Little. Truth be told, I loved primary school. But that first day was terrifying.

I do remember my Mum walking me the few blocks from our weatherboard home to school, my hand gripped tightly to hers as she took me to my first classroom, my new ‘home away from home’. I don’t remember if Mum cried; I do remember I did. I didn’t want to let go.

It was the vivid memory of my hand tightly gripped by my Mum that first ‘terrifying’ day of school that immediately came to mind a few mornings ago when I was writing in my journal. I am an early riser, and most mornings the first thing I do before my mind races away with all the things that need to be done is to sit down at our kitchen table with my journal, bible and fountain pen. I read, and I write – and in doing so, I pray. It centres and stills me. No matter what the day holds, it’s always better for these 20-30 minutes at the start.

Last Monday, I read these words: ‘Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.’ (Psalm 73:23) The writer is addressing God, and after lamenting the pain, grief and suffering of life, declares his experience of God’s unfailing and intimate presence in the midst of it all. God isn’t just present, God is closely present – like a mother gripping her terrified son by his clammy right hand on his first day of school, the image that leapt to me from the deep recesses of my memory bank when I read these words.

The English translation lets us down a bit here. In the original language, it’s more like you ‘grip me’, or even ‘seize me’. Hold doesn’t quite cut it. The writer is testifying that, through the twists and turns of life, God has ALWAYS been present – holding his right hand for dear life.

Friends, the work we do, we do not do on our own, or in our own strength. ‘Doing all the good we can’ is done with each other, and dare I say it, and if we allow, with God – the God who is always with us, the God who lovingly grips our hand and guides us through it all (Psalm 73:24).

In the end, Mum did have to let go of my hand that first day of school. But I remember her being at the school gate around 3pm to greet me, taking my hand in hers as we walked home, all the while words tumbling out from me telling her just how wonderful school was.  

Wherever we are, God is. Whatever ‘good’ you are doing today; God is with you. And as you invite, he can and will lead you by the hand. God bless you, friends.

Every blessing,

Rev Stu Cameron
CEO and Superintendent, Wesley Mission

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