At first sight, it looked like a small brown spiky ball. My first thought was that it had chosen an inappropriate spot to go into hibernation. But on further investigation, we discovered that the unfortunate little creature was seriously injured. Something had apparently attacked it: one of its hind legs was hanging half off, and there was a terrible amount of raw flesh showing.
The paw of suspicion pointed at our dog, Blaze, who had spent an unusual amount of time out in the garden the previous night. Also, he has got ‘Previous’ (as they say in the Police) for this sort of offence! But nothing could be proved, and in any case, you can’t blame a dog for being a dog.
The real and immediate problem was what to do for the hedgehog. It was still breathing and not bleeding, but with those horrible injuries it must have been in a lot of pain.
At this point, I found myself in conflict. One the one hand, I was concerned for the hedgehog. On the other, I had a busy day ahead, and I didn’t want my schedule interrupting by having to take a trip to the hedgehog sanctuary.
My wife, however, who had an even busier day, couldn’t do anything else until she had done everything she could for the hedgehog. She’s like that. She used to be a nurse, and now she’s a Deacon, but she’s always had an open heart for the suffering and needy in the world.
In the end, we took the hedgehog round to the local vet. They would most probably put it down, we knew, but at least it would end the little creature’s suffering in the gentlest way possible.
I came away with several thoughts going round my head. Appreciation for my wife’s tenderness. Some guilt over my self-centred thinking.
But also there was the thought that God cared about that hedgehog as well. If he sees the sparrows that fall, then he also knows about the hedgehog in pain. He is accused of not caring (or not being there at all) because he allows such things – but he gave my wife a compassionate heart to be there for him and to show his caring.
In a world where there is so much suffering, the pain and death of such a small animal doesn’t amount to much – in our eyes. That’s the reality of it. But another, deeper reality is that even a little hedgehog is held in God’s heart, and he knows the full misery of this fallen creation in much greater depth than we do. And in that is our hope for the redemption of the world. The Bible talks about the lion and the lamb lying down together. I’m thinking of a world where dogs and hedgehogs can play together.