As a father I really can't even think about this without getting the jitters.
Moving swiftly on, on Thought for the day this morning (below) there was an interesting observation from Tom Butler. We're all so used to watching crime mystery programmes on telly that we expect a tidy answer to the Maddie McCann mystery. It is deeply tragic, but it could be that there is never a tidy answer to this one. Ask the parents of Ben Needham.
When I was a young curate I remember being told by a neighbouring vicar, then in his eighties, of the incident which had taken place fifty years earlier which still haunted him. Then, himself a curate, he'd been responsible for the visit of a Sunday school party to the seaside. One child disappeared, and sadly the coach had to return without her. Even though she'd been in the care of her aunt, the young priest felt responsible for her, and fifty years later, no-one still knew what had happened to her, and he still grieved for her loss.
You will understand that that story has been much in my mind during these last weeks and months as the story of Madeleine McCann missing on a family holiday in Portugal unfurls. We've all been caught up into the horror of this, and our emotions have been pulled this way and that for no-one seems to be beyond involvement in this story, from the most seemingly innocent, through suggestions of heavy handed police, and a whole army of well wishing supporters and odd eccentrics feeding the media with drops of gossip and innuendo day after day. Nor does the story seem to be abating now that the family has returned to England, and this isn't simply a media led story, for good and positive reasons we feel ourselves to be involved. We want to know what happened.
Of course if this were a fictional story at least we'd be following it in the assurance that by the time we reached the last page all would be revealed. We might be astonished with the revelation of the perpetrator of the crime and the link of events relating to the victim. But, all would ultimately be solved.
But life is no novel, and, as with my clerical friend and the Sunday school child, there may be no neat ending to the Madeleine McCann story. This isn't good news, but it's the truth. And in this family of faith, where is faith and God in all of this? We might well ask. Occasionally a superman sort of God seems to zap in and solve a tragic situation, more often the God who is present seems to be the helpless God who wept with the disciples as they sat at the foot of the cross grieving the death of his only begotten son.
"Thy Word is all, if we could spell," as the poet George Herbert put in, trying to fathom the mystery of God's ways. If we could spell. The trouble is we haven't yet learned how to.