I didn’t expect it to happen as soon as it did.
Sarah and I having a conversation over food, as we normally did, only to be drowned out by our baby, demanding our attention, demanding to be involved.
Or finding I could no longer put my arm around Sarah without a third party nudging in between the two of us, pushing us apart, clinging to our legs, expecting to be part of a group hug.
From an early age, we hate to be left out, we hate to feel excluded. And yet, no matter how attentive our parenting, no matter how inclusive our family relationships, feeling left out is something all our children will experience.
I watch the pain of a two-year old being told “you’re not my friend anymore”, or the sadness of a sibling who gets left out of a game of their brother and sister. Or the sinking feeling as you realise that every child in the class has been invited to the birthday party except your own.
Being left out, being excluded, drains us of joy. But the reverse is also true – inclusion brings life.
In our former church, I saw it when our eldest son was invited to play the bongos. He was still very young, his beat was not always in time, and his concentration could waver, but the other musicians, with great tolerance and encouragement, welcomed him and made him feel part of the group. Consequently he loved it, even wanting to be at church early so as to practice with the group. Unusual behaviour even for (or maybe, especially for…) a vicar’s son! I’m glad to say here at St Barbara’s that spirit of inclusion has continued – he’s now an enthusiastic and fully signed-up member of the choir.
If inclusion brings life, then it is worth reminding ourselves that the most inclusive thing of all is God’s love. No one is excluded. No-one is left out. God loves everyone of us.
All of us are invited to his party.