Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Psalms for Moms


I love mother's day, and here's why -

For a long time, I didn’t know if I would ever have the privilege of being a mother. But after a long, hard road of infertility, as a mid-30's, newly-licensed foster mama, I'll never forget the late March evening my precious daughter was placed in my arms. I knew at once that this had always been God's perfect plan. I had waited so long and prayed so hard for her, I knew that moment I would never, ever, take it for granted. And I can honestly say, two plus years later, I am still so overwhelmed with gratitude every single day for the precious gift that motherhood is in my life. 
After a few exhausting and incredibly emotional weeks in those early days, I stole away one morning to process this new season, this huge change. Now that I had what I had desired for so long, the weight of the responsibility was heavy. So, I drove myself to the Starbucks just down the street from my house, asked God for wisdom, and dove in to the scriptures for what it means to be a mom, by God’s design. 

Prepare to Launch



A man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Genesis 2:24

To my dismay in that moment, I discovered that parenthood is about preparing your children to leave you, so that they can be fruitful, independent of you. This was hard for me to grapple with as a foster mom. The vulnerable position I was in felt heavy on my heart every day. I knew our time together, our forever, was not guaranteed. I could lose her. I was terrified of that. I didn’t know how long I would have her. I'm not unique in that, really - the truth is none of us ever do. But God’s Word reassured me. The fact is, one way or another, our kids will leave our care...

So for as long as God entrusts his precious children to us, that is our mission, our privilege. Prepare them for launch, for flight, for separation from us. And so that day, I began to look at parenthood God’s way. Even as a tiny little person, my goal each day was to pour in to her what she needed in order to strengthen her for whatever was going to come next.

For me, that looked like this: if I could just make sure she felt attachment. If I could just make her feel well and healthy (she came home very, very ill). If I could just focus on her really believing that she was loved - not just by me, but by a great big God - These were the things I knew she would need to carry her through, whether she stayed forever or in the event that she did leave our home. 

"Mama"


The Hebrew words for mother and father are very fascinating. It probably isn’t surprising that Ab, father, is a picture of an ox (symbolic of leadership or strength) and a house. The father’s role is as the leader of the home.

But what about a mother’s role in parenting?

The word for Mother is Em. Same beginning letter for leader or strength, but the second letter means water. Mother means “strong water" in picture form.

The implications for that are pretty amazing - 
Hebrews made glue by boiling animal skins in water. As the skin broke down, a sticky thick liquid formed at the surface of the water. This thick liquid was removed and used as a binding agent-"strong water" – so linguistically, the Bible shows us that a mother holds it all together, keeps things running smoothly. 

Another way to translate these pictures is "headwaters." Headwaters are a molding force, the source and head of the way elsewhere. This certainly speaks to the influence of the mother in guiding and shaping a young life, of her instruction and her example. A mother leads by modeling as she yields to the authority of the father in godly submission. Her force, like water, is gentle, and repetitive, powerful enough to carve pathways out of hardened mountains and stone. 

Interestingly, there are so many properties and effects of water that are so crucial to life and health: it elevates mood, increases cognitive function, regulates, protects, removes waste, helps with nutrient absorption, fights illness, increases energy –

It’s gentle yet powerful, it is cleansing and healing, it sustains life.

I would say that’s exactly what mamas do and are on the daily.

A Greater and More Perfect Love


What does all this have to do with God?

A mother’s love – known for its special intuition, its fierce protectiveness, and refusal to give up on even the lost causes --  is just a mere reflection of a greater and more perfect love.


While our God has instructed us to address Him with masculine pronouns, we see that often he uses maternal imagery to convey certain aspects of His love. It isn’t that God is female or feminine - but as image bearers, there are certain attributes of His character that God has specifically entrusted to the female gender to express and reflect. In other words, there are aspects of this beautiful and fierce maternal love that actually point us to our Heavenly Father and His love for us. 
Just look at how Colossians confirms that He is the bonding agent and the headwater for us:
He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
Colossians 1:17-18

Here are three more of those maternal allusions, nestled in the psalms, that are used to describe Gods love for us:

A Safe Place


Read: Psalm 17: 8-9 | Psalm 57:1 | Psalm 91: ALL
Here we read about this protector, this refuge that is our God, using the imagery of a mother bird protecting her young. This behavior is instinctive for animals, and for human mamas. How often have we heard legendary tales of feats of strength performed by mothers in desperate attempts to rescue their children? 
Mothers instinctively shield, gather, cover, shelter. They use their wings to block the sun and to shield their babies from the cold. They use their bodies to hide them from predators. Check out this video to see it in real life! Did you notice how there was room for everyone? What a beautiful picture of God's love! 
Jesus even speaks to this kind of maternal, instinctive protectiveness: "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing." 

God wants to shield us more desperately from our enemy than any mother in nature. And He gave His very body, His life to do so. The wings are the grace. And this undeserved, covenant favor preserves us just like those helpless, baby chicks. All we have to do is run to Him. 


Sustainer


Read: Psalm 145:8-9, 14-16

As I read this passage, there are three elements to what is described of the Lord. It starts with sustaining someone who falls. A physical misstep. Next it says He raises up those who are about down. An emotional pit. Finally it says He feeds them appropriately. A filling of food. When I read about all these things I see a common thread. And the thread is comfort and nurture, all met with appropriate filling. 

In the moments that we fail or fall, a mother is often the one that we run to to kiss the boo-boo. My little one certainly always wants mommy when she’s not feeling well or when she’s hurt. It’s nothing against daddy, there’s just something special about mom’s comfort and nurture. Moms pick you up, dust you off, and set you back on your way when you fall down. 
Sometimes instead of a misstep, it's a spirit of discouragement. We get overwhelmed, we don’t think we can go any further. We say "I can’t do it." We lose our confidence. Often, moms are always there to remind us who we are, to cheer us on and say, "Yes you can." 
As far as God being the source of physical feeding, this absolutely cracks me up -  because I have personally experienced this almost daily. Many nights, just after we cross the threshold of the house, I hear, "Mama, what's for dinner!?" Often we look to our moms to feed us, to fill us up. There’s something comforting about having a home cooked meal from your mom, often that’s the way your mom shares love, at least I know in my household it is.

God emphasizes the same aspects of his character in the very first of his covenant people. He wanted them to know that he was enough and would provide everything that they needed. He wanted them to know that he would be there with them every step of the way. He called himself "I AM" to convey his sufficiency, and El Shaddai, which in one translation means "WHO ENOUGH." If there is a void or an emptiness, He can fill it.        

So how does He do that? What is the sustenance that sustains us, fills us, encourages us and failure? What can make failure fruitful?  HIS WORD. More than “mother knows best“, God the father knows all. We can trust his word and his encouragement over us.
When we are broken and discouraged, when we fail or when we are longing, His desire is that we would come to Him and feed upon the word. He so desires to strengthen us, to change us, to bring forth wonderful things from us, and the way that He makes that happen is by giving us the food of His word.


Jesus said it Himself, "man does not live on bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."

Let us not fail daily to go to our sustainer and our comforter to receive the food, the bread of life.


Sacrifice


Read: Psalm 103:1-13
There really is not a better word to describe motherhood. From pregnancy to nursing and on, a mother must give of herself, nearly constantly, to her own exhaustion, depletion, to nurture and prepare another life. Often there is almost a complete surrender of identity – there is who you were before kids, and then there was you as a mother. It changes everything.

Notice this word compassion, compassionate, that so often describes God. The word in Hebrew is Racham. Here's the amazing thing: these same letters make up the word WOMB in Hebrew. They are just pronounced differently.
Think about a pregnant woman's existence for a moment: Daily you feel nauseous. Nightly you can’t sleep. You are experiencing strange sensations, cravings, your body is not your own, and transforms with each day. Everything about your daily activity must center around this fetus, who in no way thinks of your needs. It’s uncomfortable. It’s inconvenient. But does a mother retaliate or becomes angry at the child? Of course not! She knows that within her, despite the inconvenience and discomfort in the season, there is the promise of life. And she will do anything she needs to do, and do her anything she must, to bring that life into the world successfully. She overlooks what is happening to her in order to seek the best interests of the child.

That is what is meant by compassion of the Lord. It means that despite our own imperfections and shortcomings, despite the fact that we inconvenience Him with our sin and rebellion, that He holds on to His steadfast love for us, determined to bring forth a productive life out of what is growing within us. 


 Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.
Isaiah 49:15

The sacrifice, the compassion, is the cross. There are no lengths that He wasn’t willing to go to in order to overlook our flaws. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

He will love us despite our undeservedness, because He sees the potential for life. As a mother protect her unborn child, so He will protect us, He will never let go of the promise of one day holding us in his arms. And He will pay any cost, even sacrifice His own life, for that to happen. We can trust in Him. 

Conclusion


Moms are definitely wonderful, and worthy of gratitude; but let’s remember they are but a mere fraction, a pale reflection, of our God. So let’s not forget today, and every day, to give thanks and honor to the one from whom all these wonderful mothers with their wonderful qualities have come. He is our sealant, he is our source, he is our our safe place, our sustainer, our sacrifice. Thank you thank you God for showing us your love for us through mothers.






1 comment:

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