Is this a modern or old-fashioned word would you say? Can you remember the last time you heard it used? Does it belong to fairy tales of the past and the world of the gramophone? Peter Rabbit might have chewed carrots like they were going out of fashion but let us chew on the relevance or otherwise of ‘faithfulness’ for our society today and for our own lives. True enough, the word may belong to a relatively small circle, but the concept is still very much needed. You may struggle to find many examples of this beautiful and most precious attribute lauded in the public arena but you will find many relationships that would have thrived if it was applauded in our private lives. In this era of Tweets, faithfulness is perhaps seen as being a little ‘twee’. How would you value it or quantify it?
- ‘Indeed, this life is a test. It is a test of many things - of our convictions and priorities, our faith and our faithfulness, our patience and our resilience, and in the end, our ultimate desires’ – Sheri L Dew
- ‘Nothing is more noble, nothing more venerable than fidelity. Faithfulness and truth are the most sacred excellences and endowments of the human mind’ – Marcus Tullius Cicero
- ‘Marriage has a unique place because it speaks of an absolute faithfulness, a covenant between radically different persons, male and female; and so it echoes the absolute covenant of God with his chosen, a covenant between radically different partners’ – Rowan Williams
- ‘It is the faithfulness of God that allows epistemology to model ontology’ – John Polkinghorne
You might pick any number of examples to illustrate this virtue – a long-standing marriage with one spouse caring for the other into old age, a steadfast employee remaining with a disgraced employer or a parent standing by his or her wayward child. Turning neither to any of them, nor to Peter Rabbit’s obsession with Mr MacGregor’s carrots, let’s consider ‘Greyfriars Bobby’, a dog! Bobby was a Skye Terrier owned by John Traill, a night watchman in Edinburgh. When John died, Bobby spent the next 14 years guarding his grave until his own death from jaw cancer on the 14th January 1872. Such was the love for this dog’s faithful action that a monument was erected and placed just inside Greyfriar’s church cemetery that reads: ‘Greyfriars Bobby – Died 14 January 1872 – Aged 16 years – Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all’!
Back to Peter Rabbit then, the brainchild of Beatrix Potter. Beatrix was a lonely London girl born in 1866, educated at home and prevented by her parents from playing with other local children. She was especially interested in mushrooms and mosses! Her observation of the natural world and solitary life led her to write stories for younger children but none of them really portraying faithfulness. It was her own life that revealed her passion and faithfulness which was to the countryside. Dying of pneumonia and heart disease 22nd December 1943 in Lancashire aged 77, Beatrix bequeathed her wealth to the National Trust which led to the formation of the Lake District National Park in England. What are the deep passions of your heart and to what do they lead you?
- ‘I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly. Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord; may your love and faithfulness always protect me’ – Psalm 40:10-11
- ‘For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies’ – Psalm 57:10
- ‘Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you’ – Psalm 89:8,14
- ‘Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness’ – Lamentations 3:22-23
Our Saviour Jesus Christ not only fully exhibits the faithful love of God but one of his names recorded in Revelation 19:11 tells us who he is: ‘I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True’. Jesus’ very name, at the heart of his being, is Faithful – it is impossible for him to be unfaithful to any of his purposes, promises or his love for you. As the old hymn tells us, the faithfulness of God is very great and is very deep – let it call to the heart of your being as morning by morning new mercies you see:
- ‘Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me – a prayer to the God of my life’ – Psalm 42:7-8
The faithfulness of God is no fairy tale but is a rock-like reality that sustains your life each day. Remind yourself of the beauty and strength of God’s faithfulness in the words of the old song, ‘Faithful One, so unchanging … our Rock of peace’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HROSwkRwpPI
Peter Rabbit and the old records may give you a nostalgic spin at 45 rpm but God’s faithfulness never stops, jumps or fails … this isn’t due to new technology but to the unending and unerring character of our Father, who is helping us to become more like his Son. Faithful One indeed.
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