Sunday, May 14, 2017

Made in the Image of Our…Mother?

I remember that day very vividly. I was only 24 years old. Kim and I were expecting our first child (or children). A few weeks prior, we had learned that we would have twins. I cannot describe to you the joy and fear that came with that news. But only a few weeks later, both of those emotions were replaced with anxiety and sadness.

During one of our countless trips to Abilene for doctor’s appointments, pictures were taken of our girls. Only after these pictures were taken, the doctor’s face changed. Have you ever been in one of those rooms with the doctor? You ask, “What’s wrong?” And they are so engrossed in their task at hand that they either don’t hear you or they ignore you? Either way, they don’t respond. After the tests were over, she asked us to meet her in her office down the hallway. Kim and I made that long trip down the hall, not knowing at all what to expect. We took our seats and waited for the doctor.

Upon her arrival into her office, the doctor got right to the point. With twin pregnancy, each child is supposed to be in its own special sac. They are together in the womb, but separated at the same time. On extremely rare occasions, the babies exist in the same sac. We quickly learned this is not a good thing. Often times, one of the babies takes all of the nutrients and the other one doesn’t make it. Other times, it becomes too crowded and the babies are likely to get tangled together around the umbilical cord, resulting in strangulation. She brought us into her office to explain to us that she could not find a wall separating our twins. They would run further tests in Dallas, but she seemed confident that our babies were in the same sac.

I had so many emotions that afternoon. On the one hand, I wanted to be the strong, supportive husband. I told Kim, “It’s going to be OK. There’s still a chance she was wrong. Even if she’s right, that doesn’t mean all of those horrible things are going to happen.” On the other hand, inside, I was devastated. Kim and I drove an hour back to our home. We talked for a while. And then I went up to the church building, just down the street. And at that moment, I did the only thing I knew to do. The only thing I knew would provide some sort of comfort and peace.

I picked up the phone and called my mom.

I could barely get the words out to explain to her what was happening. She didn’t solve all of my problems that day, but I promise you that I felt a little better after our conversation. As you know, it all turned out OK, our girls are here!

What is it about mothers that they have that ability to provide comfort when no one else can? I’m not the only one who has noticed this. Did any of you hear the news about Dan Baber? Citizen, a publication from Focus on the Family, reported the online auction of a "mother's touch." Dan Baber honored his mother by posting an auction on eBay titled, “Best Mother in the World.” No, he wasn’t auctioning off his mom! The winning bidder would receive an e-mail from his mom, Sue Hamilton. Baber promised that email would "make you feel like you are the most special person on the Earth." So, how did people respond to Baber's auction? During the auction's seven-day run, 42,711 people, enough to fill most baseball stadiums, took a look. Ninety-two bids! The auction began at the price of $1. Dan’s mother eventually sent an email to someone who paid $610.

This auction reveals to us something very important: We, as human beings, crave, long for, cannot live without motherly comfort. No, we do not always receive motherly comfort from our mothers. Sometimes we receive it from a grandmother. Other times, we might receive it from a close teacher or mentor. And sometimes, we receive that motherly comfort from God! And I guess that shouldn’t surprise us, because after all, mothers were created in the image of God.

Now, I know that most of us have a hard time thinking of God as a “mother.” After all, the most common metaphor for God in scripture is “Father.” But remember, that is all it is, a metaphor. God created humankind, male and female, in God’s image. And though they are not as obvious or common, there are many passages in scripture that reveal God’s “motherly qualities.” Take, for example, Isaiah 66:7–13:

Read Isaiah 66:7–13 CEB.

This is an interesting text that describes both God and Zion. Zion, as you know, was the holy city, Jerusalem. But it also represented, more commonly, the Temple, the place of God in the world. And sometimes the word Zion was a way of referring to God. After all, the Temple was the literal presence of God in the world. So, this text, though it describes Zion’s protection of her people, also describes God’s protection of God’s people. And you really begin to see the fluidity of this metaphor in verse 13. For this entire section, the writer has been describing the protection and comfort offered to Israel by Zion, the Holy City. Zion gave birth to her people. Zion delivered her people in pain. Zion satisfied her people abundantly. Zion nursed Israel as a mother nursed her children. And then in verse 13, without comment, the language changes:

As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; in Jerusalem you will be comforted.

So, this description of a mother’s protection and comfort and sustenance applies not only to a holy city, Jerusalem, but also the creator and Lord of that City, God.
God gave birth to Israel.
God delivered Israel in pain.
God satisfied Israel abundantly.
God nursed Israel as a mother nursed her children.
Church, how does that change your view of God?

If nothing else, brothers and sisters, it reminds me of something very important. If God offers these “motherly qualities” to His (or Her) people, those created in God’s image are called to do the same thing. If God provides comfort and peace and protection as a mother to her children, we, the people of God are called to do the same thing. What if the church was not so much a group of like-minded people who did worship together as much as church was the presence of God in this world to provide comfort and peace to God’s creation? When the world hurts, what if the first place they went to find healing was God’s church? What would it mean for us to view ourselves as “mothers” to our neighborhood and community and city? If we really seek to conform more and more into the image of our Creator, we need to find out.

Frederick Douglass grew up as a slave in Maryland in the early nineteenth century. He escaped and became one of the century's leading abolitionists, who fought to end slavery forever. He writes in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave about being torn away from his mother's love:
My mother and I were separated when I was but an infant—before I knew her as my mother. It is a common custom, in the part of Maryland from which I ran away, to part children from their mothers at a very early age. She was hired by a Mr. Stewart, who lived about 12 miles from my home.
Nonetheless, young Frederick's mother several times found ways to see her son:
She made her journeys to see me in the night, traveling the whole distance on foot, after the performance of her day's work. She was a field hand, and a whipping was the penalty of not being in the field at sunrise…. She was with me in the night. She would lie down with me and get me to sleep, but long before I waked she was gone.
How amazing is the power of a mother's love. Frederick Douglass' mother worked all day long in the scorching heat of the tobacco fields. Then, when her body was crying for rest, she walked 12 miles in the dark to see her son. And after comforting him and holding him as he fell asleep, she had to walk another 12 miles back. She gave up a night's sleep. She risked getting a severe whipping if she were discovered, or if she got home late. But nothing could keep this mother from her son.

A love like that is an amazingly attractive thing. It draws people to itself. A love like that is from God. In fact, a love like that is God.

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