Thursday, June 05, 2008


Another favorite poem...

...Earth's crammed with heaven
And every common bush afire with God;
And only she who sees takes off her shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware...

Elizabeth Barret Browning, from Aurora Leigh
(adapted for feminine language)

The Nature of a Parenting God

A short walk from my house is the Thornton Creek Watershed, a park that contains wooded area and a large pond into which Thornton Creek and other small waterways empty. It's home to beavers, muskrats, fish, frogs, turtles and all manner of water fowl, all of which are wonderful to watch as the evening light stretches later and later through the days of spring.

One evening as I was watching a family of ducks - a mother and her ducklings - the image of God as mother hen (or duck, in this case) was so clearly illustrated. The mother duck lit on a log by the edge of the pond and began to groom herself, then to honk softly. One by one her babies followed her, launching themselves awkwardly and gracefully onto the mossy log beside her, shaking the water from their downy feathers and reaching around the groom their backs. And then one by one they found places under their mothers soft wings.

While many of the ducklings disappeared under their mama, one wayward and adventurous duckling continued to swim. She poked her way through buried reeds, checked out floating twigs and generally ignored her still gently honking mother. Eventually though, she too came home. Mama goose kept calling until even her last baby found a place nestled under her feathers. And all that was left to be seen of those babies was the subtle pulse of life, like the heartbeat of six tiny duckling hearts.

Shortly after this walk I was in a meeting with the Worship Oversight Committee from my church. We were invited into reflection on this passage from Psalm 139:7-12:

Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night," even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.

As one person commented on the meaningfulness of the image of God's hands leading and holding fast, I thought about the way I use my own hands. Naomi is learning to walk right now. She seems to have no fear. She often plunges literally headfirst in the direction that she wants to go without thinking of the close edge of the couch, the steepness of the stairs or the sharp object that might be in her way. I use my hands to hold her up, to keep her safe, to move danger out of her way, to keep her from falling and to comfort her when she's taken too big a risk and hurt herself.

I allow Naomi a lot of liberty in exploring her world but I also try my best to keep her safe. God's hands for me are so much like my hands for my daughter. It brought tears to my eyes to think that however much I love Naomi, God's love for me is infinitely more, holding me fast. And here I thought also of the Biblical image of God the Father guiding the infant in it's tentative steps. We parents offer both guidance and freedom for exploration, both correction and comfort, whether we are human or animal. We are created in the image of God and God has offered us the same gifts as our Mother in heaven, as so much more. Thanks be to God!