In preparation for pre-meeting Bible study yesterday, and in honor of Mother’s Day, I was pondering the maternal metaphors for God, pulling out files I had compiled almost a decade ago. These include tender images such as:
“I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.” (Hosea 11:4)
Other images suggest protection:
“Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.” (Psa.17:8)
“I gathered you as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.” (2 Esdras 1:30, quoted in Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34)
Not all the images of mother are tender and comforting as the mother hen. God can also be a mother bear, fiercely defending her young:
“I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs, and will tear open the covering of their heart.” (Hosea 13:8) I guess we all know that mothers can be angry and judgemental, but this is not an image I relate to.
The image that struck me in a new way yesterday is that of God as a mother eagle:
“As an eagle stirs up its nest, and hovers over its young; as it spreads its wings, takes them up, and bears them aloft on its pinions, the Lord alone guided him.” [Jacob in the desert] (Deuteronomy 32:10-11)
This image suggests a God who, like the mother eagle, pushes its children to grow and try new things. Mother eagles teach their young to fly by pushing them out of the nest but catching them as they fall. God has been stirring up my nest lately, pushing me to go beyond my comfort zone in speaking out in public about climate change. There are days when I feel that undergirding of support, being borne aloft on eagle’s wings, and there are other days when I experience the terror of falling.
Help! I don’t know how to fly!
Yes, you do. Trust me.