"The true center of Rembrandt's painting (Return of the Prodigal Son) is the hands of the father... gradually over the years, I have come to know those hands. They have held me from the hour of my conception, they welcomed me at my birth, held me close to my mother's breast, fed me, and kept me warm. They have protected me in times of danger and consoled me in times of grief. They have waved me good-bye and always welcomed me back. Those hands are God's hands. They are also the hands of my parents, teachers, friends, healers, and all those whom God has given me to remind me how safely I am held."
From The Return of The Prodigal Son; A Story of Homecoming by Fr. Henri Nouwen.
I love that description of God's merciful and loving hands. Although, I didn't read the book until several years later, it reminds me of my prayer for my son before he was born.
It was shortly after my wife and I were told that his chances for surviving were not very good because of an injury my wife suffered after miscarrying our third child (we had two daughters at the time) and the post-miscarriage surgical procedure. She was schedule to have an operation to heal the injuries but, that's when our son came into the picture; a pleasant and unexpected surprise!
I remember praying over and over for the Lord to take our son into His hands, protect him and let him be born healthy and safe and, despite several scary and tenuous moments, God answered our prayers. Our son was born healthy and safe, albeit prematurely, over seven years ago.
The passage also reminds me how God works through people; people who come in and out of our lives from the time we are born, sometimes drawing little attention and becoming but fleeting thoughts in our memories, while others are constants, like family and friends. God uses some of these people to show us His love, mercy and forgiveness along the way...