Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Mother-Heart of God

Isaiah 49:13-16 Sing for joy, O heavens! Rejoice, O earth! Burst into song, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted his people and will have compassion on them in their suffering. Yet Jerusalem says, "The LORD has deserted us; the Lord has forgotten us." "Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands. Always in my mind is a picture of Jerusalem's walls in ruins.

COMMENT: Want to make a fundamentalist really mad? Just refer to God with feminine pronouns. One of my earliest introductions to this kind of God-talk was reading an Andrew Greeley novel about a Catholic priest in Chicago who loved to make his parishoners mad by referring to God as "she." It was shocking to me at first, but I really liked the devilish-ness of this priest who just wanted to stir up the nest. He certainly began to stir up my nest as I began to think about religious language. And some time later, I began to notice the Bible's ease with using feminine language and imagery when it speaks of God and God's relationship to humanity. My own personal prejudices were being exposed and transformed through the powerful medium of fictional narrative.

Nowhere is the mother-heart of God more clearly revealed than in this passage from Isaiah 49. It plumbs the depths of intimate relationship when it likens God's relation to Israel in terms of a nursing mother with her child... That is something I can not fully relate to. I have seen it and appreciated the love and tenderness that exists between mother and nursing child. There have been times when I even envied that experience (though not at 3 am feeding times). Perhaps the closest I may ever come to this experience is the utter delight that has come to my heart as I held my infant granddaughter on my chest and rocked her to sleep as she placed her head next to my heart.

So yes, God's love for us is as deep and wonderful and mysterious as a mother's love for her nursing child. There can never be any thought of abandonment on God's side. God cannot forget "her" children. God has our names inscribed on the palms of "her" hands... Give thanks to the Lord, for "she" is good..."her" love endures forever. Does that kind of language make you mad? You might just be a fundamentalist... God help you! But even if you are, God loves you and will not forget you! She really won't! And that... is good news!

Soli Deo gloria

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