A View of the Image of God from Motherhood (musings) Part II

This past Sunday was Mother’s day. I love Mother’s day. I love it even though I know how much of a “Hallmark” holiday it is. I just love it. I love the way my children bounce into our bed, bearing their school-made gifts. I (expletive + ing) LOVE gifts, especially from my boys. I love seeing what they have to say, and at 8 and 6, they say crazy awesome stuff. This year I got a Pokemon card from my 8 year old, and from my 6 year old, a laminated picture and written paragraph about the things he loves about me.

My 6 year old writes some pretty amazing and fairly deep statements; no surprise really, since he’s always been that deep thinker. By 2, we dubbed him the “Wandering Sage” because he would randomly spout off wise advice or deep thoughts. One day he woke up and while rubbing his eyes, said, “No one should run with scissors.” One day he was doing his gymnastic stunts off a big, over-stuffed chair, stopped mid tumble, sat upright, and said, “Mama, everything about war is wrong.” One day he explained to me how the seed and the egg formed the baby I was carrying in my womb; he was eerily close and only 4.  Last year he wrote me this: I love you because you love me! It’s like he was reading 1 John 4 the night before.

This year, written at the tail end of the list of things that he loves about me, he wrote, “Your smile makes me loved and feel happy.”

My eyes have reread those words everyday since I taped that laminated picture and paragraph up in my “office” (aka: The Kitchen).  In my skeptical adult wounded state, I would’ve said, “Your smile makes me feel loved…” Leaving room for the doubt that you don’t really love me, because I know smiles can sometimes be fake. So, there’s a difference between feeling loved and belovedness. To this child, though, my smile declares to him: beloved.

The power of a mother’s smile.

My smile…the smile that comes across my face when they come in from being at school all day; the smile that cuts through the tension filled bedroom because someone was being a total grumpy pants; the smile that can’t contain itself when they do ridiculous things during a tantrum; the smile that–often–ushers them off to dreamland and awaits for the dawn to greet them again; the smile that assures them that even right in the midst of their crap, they are loved, they are the beloved.

And this leads me to discuss what conclusion I’m drawing about the image of God from the view of motherhood.  It’s the power of the mother’s smile–from the moment that baby is born to the moment that mother stops walking upon the earth–that declares belovedness to the child. And I believe that the power is there, in the mother’s smile, because it’s she who has been most intimate with the child (she knows him), the one who has provided comfort from day one (she is the voice and the smell that brings her comfort). It’s her smile that conveys not just “I am happy with you” or “I have learned you and find you amusing” but sustains the original love, the state of belovedness.  The very one who bore you, who handed herself over for you, who stared death in the face to get you here smiles upon you  and you are loved.

Am I still the beloved? Yes, dear child, you are.

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26).

God has smiled upon us; and it’s a smile that will never stop. Through His son, our saviour Jesus Christ, he has declared to the entire world that He loves us so much and that He desires us so much to know that we are the beloved. His face, through His son, is shining upon us and is gracious to us; His countenance is upon us and gives us peace because of Jesus. And while my smile stops many times a day, His never stops. Because His smile upon you and upon me is based on His perfect love for us apart from our deeds (both good and bad) because of the totality of the work of Christ. God’s smile is forever upon you, right here, right now, right where you are–clean or dirty, put together or falling apart, sober or drunk, pure or defiled.  The very One who created you, the very One who handed himself over for you, the very One who reckoned with death and won to silence death once and for all and to bring you to Himself, smiles upon you and you are loved.

Am I still the beloved?  Yes, dear child you are and always will be.

A View of the Image of God from Motherhood (musings) Part I

I’m a mom. I think about being a mom a lot. It makes sense. I’m also a theologian (budding). Thus, I think about God a lot. And, that makes a lot of sense, too. Often, these two realms overlap and I find myself holding my toddler, nursing her, and thinking about aspects of God and His work toward us, specifically (as of late) the image of God as it is manifested by both man and woman in unity. And I often find my thoughts wondering in this direction: what unique thing does woman bring to the image of God (keeping in mind that there’s a reason for making humanity in the image of God both male and female)? And–as radical as it may sound, as liberal as it may sound–what can I know about God by being a mother? What about motherhood uniquely represents the image of God? For part of my woman-ness is the ability to carry life within me, to birth that life, to sustain that life, so I wonder, what of those experiences points me to a unique aspect of the image of God?

And this is what I want to ponder over a few posts: The view of the image of God from motherhood.

Before I begin, I want to stress that the image of God is fully represented by the man and the woman (neither one carries more of the image than the other, both, together, carry the image of God uniquely and generally). And, I also want to stress that the image is fully represented by a man and a woman who do not have children. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something in motherhood and in fatherhood (though, I’m only speaking of motherhood here because I’m not a father) that can be the environment where the image gets pushed to the surface, visibly so; like, the difference between being 8 weeks pregnant and 38 weeks pregnant. This doesn’t make motherhood and fatherhood the end all and be all of Christian/Human achievements in life; they’re not. I am not a better Christian woman because I am a wife and a mother. I’m merely a Christian woman who is a wife and a mother and that’s the platform from which I’m speaking, that’s the lens I’m using now to peer into, to understand more of the image of God.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s begin…

Something occurred to me recently, when I was dealing with my daughter. She was screaming at me. I mean, screaming and shoving me (she’s very strong for 18 mos) and it was pure anger on her part because she was not getting something she wanted. Now, if I were screaming at you and shoving you you’re reaction, rightly, would be to walk away. Now, sometimes I do walk away, catch my breath, check my rage. But, oddly, I come back. I come back to her, mid tantrum and I bend low and pick her up in my arms and hold her (still full tantrum).  Vocal chords at full impact and limbs flailing wildly, I go to her and bring her closer to me. Not farther, but closer. This is what most mothers do in many circumstances. They go toward the child that is hating them.

I can’t help it. Even when it’s bad–and my toddler can get bad, we’ve nicknamed her “The Fury”–even when I do have to walk away, I can’t walk away completely. My heart is still turned toward her, desires her, loves her, craves her. And I will return to her within minutes.  There’s an actual chemical change that occurs in the woman’s brain the moment she becomes pregnant that forever changes her brain chemistry (she’ll never be the same again) that causes her to go toward her screaming child. This is something naturally unique to women, though men can experience the same change but only by “practice”, by being proactive in childcare, hands on with baby and their brains will begin to change too. But ours change the moment (or the moments before) we see that + on the pregnancy test. We are, from that moment on, hard wired to go toward our children. (Not all women have this chemical change, but it is very common.)

[Like] a mother comforts her child, so will I [God] comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem (Isa. 66:13).

This movement towards my child who is hating me is something I marvel at because it so much a part of God’s character. God, unyielding, moves toward those who hate him, toward his enemies. Like a mother, hard wired to move toward his children, the ones he loves, the ones he desires, the ones he craves even when they are yelling at him and thrusting angry fists into the sky. Like a mother, he pulls us in close to him, holds us, comforts us, and soothes us with His tender voice–the voice we’ve known since conception–and his warm words: I love you, I love you, I love you.