by Syd Hielema

You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. . . . For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. —Psalm 139:1, 13-14

A longtime pastor friend told me this story (paraphrased here with different names)

Ten years after his farewell service, Pastor Gerrit was back in his former congregation for a preaching visit. After the service, 23-year-old Edward wrapped the pastor in a huge bear hug in the coffee room, saying, "I still have that teddy bear you gave me!"

Gerrit looked confused. "What teddy bear?"

"The one you gave me when I had my surgery."

Then it all came back.

Edward's family had joined the congregation 15 years earlier when Edward was 8 years old, coming from a church that valued dignity and reverence. When Pastor Gerrit met Edward's family, he could tell that the boy enjoyed being active, so he joined in the activity. Edward's dad pulled the pastor aside, and quietly reminded him that pastors don't behave that way. 

Gerrit just smiled and replied, "But I do, and that's what your son needs from me."

Two years later Edward had minor surgery. "I didn't know what to bring a 10-year-old boy," Gerrit told me, "so I picked up a teddy bear. I just hoped I wouldn't embarrass him and myself." 

After leaving the hospital, he had no idea how his gift had been received.

Thirteen years later he found out.

It was a gift that joyfully reminded him, “Edward, you belong, just as you are.”