Scripture reminds us that God is like a Mother Hen — gently tending her brood (see Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:37, also see Psalm 36:7 and Psalm 57:1). The prophet Isaiah proclaims that we tenderly are held as if inscribed upon the very hand of God. A reminder that even if a dutiful mother were to forget her feeding child, God never forgets us. God is ever attentive to our need (see Isaiah 49:15-16). When it all feels overwhelming, a spiritual teacher I love encourages: “gather your burdens in a basket in your heart. Set them at the feet of the Mother. Say, ‘Take this, Great Mama, because I cannot carry all this . . . for another minute.’ Then crawl into her broad lap and nestle against her ample bosom and take a nap. When you wake, the basket will still be there, but half its contents will be gone, and the other half will have resumed their ordinary shapes and sizes” (Mirabai Starr, Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics, p. 31).
I love every one of these reminders! Especially when times are challenging. When there’s too much hurt in the world. When to do deadlines mount (be they self- or other-imposed). When the unknown is wearying. When fear tinges every moment. When I don’t feel quite up to the demands of the day. (Anybody feel any one of these ways in the past days, weeks, months?!) I suspect Scripture is full of various names for and attributes of God because there are so very many of us — people of faith who have sought throughout time to give expression to our hope in something beyond us, to our trust of something so much better than the worst we see in ourselves, to our experience of something surprising that never lets us go even when we may be ready to let go of it all. People of faith throughout time have called this something God. From Good Shepherd, to Sovereign of the Universe, to Rock, to Mother Hen. We have so many different names for God because as God promised Moses, God will be what God will be (see Exodus 3:14 — noting the footnotes, which I believe best express the Hebrew used in this text).
Do you long for God to be Mighty Fortress for you in the midst of chaotic Advent days? Do you need God to be Great Physician for you, the Healer of the world? Do you wish God would be Light for you amid the bleakness of these days? Or do you just need God to be Great Mama for you ready to receive you when you need to lay down every burden to be comforted better than the most nurturing mother in the world ever could comfort you?
Times are tough for so many these days. We need space to grieve all that has been lost in 2020. We need to give and receive a little kindness amid the stress and fear swirling about. We need to trust we are not alone, no matter how dreary things may seem. Advent reminds us God is making a way (see the beautiful promises of Isaiah 40). Even now in the desert-places. In the parched, withered-up parts in our souls; God shall make all things new.
Not so sure about it? Why not gather up your burdens to lay at the feet of God. Crawl right into that broad, loving lap and rest. Pour out every sorrow. God can hear it. And remember: even now, something new is being born!
Comfort and rest and peace and courage to you this Third week of Advent!