Once during my time at Baylor, I drove over to A&M to go to Breakaway. Ben Stuart was speaking, and during his talk he had his wife bring their new baby girl on stage. He held her and rocked her, and passed along some wisdom that someone had said to him, "When you hold your baby, think about your theology." That phrase stuck with me for five years, and came rushing back in those earliest days holding our baby boy.
It was never hard for me to relate to God as my Father. I was fortunate to have a really incredible dad who still shows me a lot of love and grace, and who manifests this big love in small ways too, like saving me the Sunday comics every week and calling me when our song, California Dreamin' comes on the oldies station. I understood how to receive Father love. When Shep was born this whole other dimension of love opened up - it was like seeing the mountains or the ocean for the first time- and suddenly we were givers of parent love instead of receivers. We slept a total of about 45 minutes the first 24 hours of Shepherd's life just because we didn't want to take our eyes off of him. We couldn't believe that he was ours and that he was here. We've had a few weeks with our boy now, and have gotten a little more sleep, and here's some of what mothering him has taught me about my theology.
Foremost- God is never anything but good to us. He never looks on us with anything but love. He isn't the taciturn parent who loves but then replaces that with disappointment or scorn. Every interaction with us is tempered by love. This means that His discipline is loving, His 'no' is just a placeholder until we can walk into His best 'yes', and that our good or bad behavior doesn't add to or diminish His love for us. Even though I knew God loved me, on some level I thought it at least in part related to my own goodness. One of the many downfalls of people-pleasing is that we come to assume that any love we receive is at least slightly conditional. It's like the big brother in the story of the prodigal son. He did everything he thought his father would be proud of, but then it turned out that the father really loved his kids just the same- the one who ran away and took his money, and also the one who stayed home and worked hard. His love actually is as big and indiscriminate and unconditional as we've been told.
The first few days we had Shep home, I didn't want to go to sleep. I was worried that something would happen to him while I was sleeping and that I wouldn't be alert to help him, so my solution was to just try not to sleep. This worked for like, 5 minutes. So every night before we went to sleep I would put Shep in his bassinet and pray Psalm 51 or Psalm 139 over him. At first I prayed them in a very naggy way, like, "Okay God. Just reminding you what you promised here. I'm going to turn in for the night so if you could just keep an extra close eye on him, that'd be great." It sounded a little like I was turning Shep over to an irresponsible babysitter. Then at each feeding when I woke to find he was healthy and happy I'd thank God for a job well done and ask Him to plan on the same thing for tomorrow night. I've since realized that God loves my boy bigger than I do and He doesn't ever take his eyes off of him. Ever. And it's actually more like I am the babysitter God entrusted his kid to, bless my heart.
In Isaiah it says, Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. (49.15) In creating us in His image, male and female, we get to manifest God's parent-heart as mothers and fathers. Papas mirror God's protection, His provision, His strength, and His authority. As mommas, we get to emulate God as our source of perfect comfort, our sustainer, our maker. Everything we need is in Him, just as everything a child needs to stay alive is in his mother. While I knew to go to God for strength, provision, and protection, I didn't as often go to Him for comfort, for reassurance, or for rest. I remember one day in the first week or so of having Shep home, he was inconsolable. Everyone passed him around and cooed and rocked, but he wouldn't stop crying. His diaper was clean, he had eaten and burped, we had no idea what was wrong. I wore him in his moby wrap and shushed him, and he fell asleep almost immediately. My mom turned to me and said, "Well now we know his 'I want my momma' cry." I think that was the first time I felt like a real parent. And while I never like to see him cry, I love his 'I want my momma cry'. Oh, what tenderness God loves us with; how He loves to hear that cry from us.
Becoming a mother has helped me appreciate- and understand- the cross more. I would give anything to protect my boy. I would take his place in any suffering in an instant. And this is what God the Father did in Jesus. He saw us suffering and dying under the oppression of sin, so He gave of Himself to take the punishment and seat us above the Fall. At the cross, God's parent heart broke just like Mary's mother heart but it was worth it because He loves us so deeply. Thank you, Jesus.
*P.S. How about that cute little baby nose? ;)