May 11 2014

Wishing God a Happy Mother’s Day

_DSC4751It’s Mother’s Day and lots of people are taking advantage of the occasion to express their love and gratitude to or for their mothers.  Countless cards have been sent, flowers and other gifts shared, and on Facebook just about everyone has posted a picture of their mother.  Mothers play a vital role in our lives so it is only appropriate that we express our gratitude to them.  Hopefully, however, that is not something we do just once a year.  When you remember the sacrifices most mothers make for their children, the time they invest caring and providing for, protecting and nurturing their children, they truly do deserve more than an annual day of remembrance.

whitetail doe and fawn book (v) crA few days ago I was out photographing in the nearby Sloughs and had a chance to take pictures of a pair of bald eagles who were watching over a couple of eaglets.  The mature eagles knew I was in the vicinity and their constant cries made me aware that they were in protective mode.  I was there long enough to see one of the adult eagles bring food to the nest.  This indicated they were also in providing mode.  One of the eagles spent more time near the nest more than the other.  I assumed it was the female but I could not say that for sure.  Regardless, watching it sit there watching over the eaglets reminded me that mothers play a very important role in the animal kingdom as well.

Some animals have more of what we would call a maternal instinct than others but after years of watching animals it is safe to conclude that most female creatures do, in fact, care for their young.  They not only give birth to their offspring but spend a good bit of energy and time nursing, protecting and providing for their little ones.  Many exhibit the same sacrificial and loving characteristics we see in good human mothers.  These traits are a must for the survival of the species but also for the general welfare of the young.

bison and calf crI happen to believe that the maternal care we see in good mothers—human and nonhuman alike—is a reflection of God.  I realize that for a variety of reasons we tend to speak of God in masculine terms but the Bible does not intend for us to view God as being literally male.  The Bible says “God is Spirit” (John 4:24) and as such God demonstrates characteristics that we associate with both males and females.  As the Creator God gives birth to the world and all that is. The God described for us in Hosea 11 definitely has maternal characteristics.  Jesus, who is the greatest revelation of God we have, even used maternal imagery.  In Matthew 23:37 we find him weeping over Jerusalem and saying “how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”

Canada goose with goslingsI happen to have had a mother who was (is) very loving.  She has enriched my life in many ways.  I see in her love a reflection of God’s love.  I’ve seen that same kind of love in countless other mothers over the years.  I’ve seen it in nature as well.  So on this Mother’s Day I do give thanks for my mother but even more so for the love of God who loves us all with a true mother’s love.  I see no reason at all not to wish God a very happy Mother’s Day.  At the very least we should all offer our thanks today for the way God’s love is reflected in mothers everywhere throughout Creation.


(I took the eagle image at Henderson Sloughs WMA, the whitetail deer at Shenandoah NP, the bison in Wyoming, and the geese near Frankfort, KY.)

Apr 17 2011

Like a Mother Hen

Today is Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week.  In the days to come Christians everywhere will be reflecting on the events of the week that led up to Jesus’ crucifixion.  In Matthew’s Gospel we find one of Jesus’ sayings from this week that contains a nature reference.   It may not be as familiar to most people as his injunction to “consider the lilies” or “look at the birds” but it is just as powerful and moving.  It is a passage that came to my mind this past Thursday while visiting the Iao Valley in Hawaii.  On the way to one of the viewpoints of the Iao Needle I saw a mother hen shielding her chicks beneath her.  The mother hen’s care for her little ones reminded me of Jesus’ words spoken about the city where he would shortly meet his death.  He said, “O 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, but you were not willing.”  (Mt. 23:37)

In this passage we see Christ’s frustration with the people of Jerusalem.  He wanted them to accept him and his Father’s love but they were unwilling.  Time and time again they had proven unreceptive to God’s overtures of love.  Still, Christ reaches out to them.  He longs to draw them to himself, just like a mother hen draws her chicks.  He wanted to care for them, to protect them, to love them. 

Jesus’ use of the mother hen image is a wonderful reminder of God’s love for all of us.  Even though we traditionally speak of God as “Father,” it is a mother’s love that is revealed here.  It is also a love that would seem unjustified.  The people Christ was reaching out to were known to “kill the prophets and stone those sent to you.”  We would say they were unworthy of Christ’s love, that they didn’t deserve it.  And the truth be known, they didn’t deserve it.  But neither do we. 

All of the events of Holy Week compel us to acknowledge that none of us are worthy recipients of God’s love but He loves us nonetheless.  This is why we refer to Jesus’ story as the “gospel” or “good news.”  Despite all of our failures and shortcomings, God loves us still.  He is like a mother hen who longs to draw us all close to her side.  How foolish, how insane, we must be to not allow Him to do just that.  A baby chick should be close to its mother.  That is where he or she is safe.  We, likewise, should be close to our Creator and Savior.  That is where we will find safety.  That is where we will find comfort.  That is where we will find love.