Sometimes it’s the littlest things that make the biggest difference to a day or a relationship, that break the camel’s back or make you certain you are known and loved.
Last week it was a hazelnut—a missing hazelnut, to be precise, and then a found one—that taught my heart what it needed to know.
I’d been carrying it around in the left pocket of my coat for five or six years since I first read Julian of Norwich’s beautiful image of God holding in the palm of his hand, like a tiny hazelnut, all that is made. I love to slip my hand in my pocket as I walk and be reminded that I am part of God’s creation—always held, sustained in being because God made me and loves me and keeps me.
But one day last week when I slipped my hand in my pocket, my hazelnut wasn’t there. It was such a small thing but, like a missing tooth, I kept exploring the gap, feeling the emptiness.
At first I tried to brush away the sadness and assure myself it didn’t matter; it was such a small loss and God still holds me whether or not I have a hazelnut in my pocket to remind me. Then I tried to problem-solve; where might I have lost it? How could I replace it? (Where do you even buy nuts in their shells at this time of year?)
And then I felt a nudge: “Ask Me.”
"Oh. Right. Thank you. But really? I feel like a two-year old with a missing blanket. You really want me to ask you about that?"
“I love you, child.”
So I told him my sadness, and thanked him for being with me in it. I told him I knew it was a tiny thing, but I really liked that hazelnut, and I asked if he'd help me find or replace it.
Soon after, I sensed a nudge and went to look in the drawer of my bedside table (feeling, I must admit, a little like I was looking in the oven for my toothbrush!) But there, nestled among the pill bottles and blood pressure cuff, bookmarks and pens, as though waiting to be found, was a single hazelnut.
It wasn’t the hazelnut that brought tears to my eyes; it was the love of the God who holds it always in the palm of his hand. The grand love that made all that exists and sustains it in being is not a generic love but a very particular, tender love—the love of a parent who will search through the whole house at bedtime to find the missing blanket for the toddler because her small needs and loves and desires matter.
I’m glad I lost my hazelnut. My heart knows, now, so much more about the hand that holds me!