God Has Not Forgotten
Reflections from a new mom on discovering new dimensions of God's character amidst the steep learning curve of becoming a new parent.
“It’s ok, sweetheart, I haven’t forgotten you!”
These were the words I found myself yelling down the stairs last week as I frantically scrambled to fetch a bottle of milk for my hysterically screaming son. At 11 weeks old, waiting is a concept he has not yet grasped. Caught up in his little world of immediate need and fierce hunger, to him any delay is experienced as neglect, and any absence as abandonment.
It was as I scooped him up to soothe him that it dawned on me that I had heard those very same words before, spoken long ago by another parent:
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me” (Isaiah 49:15-16).
One of the apologetics questions that I hear most frequently on university campuses is the question of why, if both women and men are made in the image of God, Jesus teaches us to refer to God exclusively as “our father.” And yet, in doing so, Jesus not only welcomes us into a familial relationship with the God of the universe, making us co-heirs in his household, but He also invites us to discover the love of a father at its very best. Personally, I am so grateful for the way that God has fathered me. Far from feeling undervalued as a woman, He has taught me so much about my intrinsic worth as his child, as well as setting an exemplar to men everywhere of just what it looks like to cherish a daughter.
And yet, while Christ has gifted us with the immense privilege of calling God “our father,” we miss out on something distinctly beautiful about the heart of God if we overlook the intentional way that God is also likened to a mother throughout Scripture. From the anguish of childbirth (Deuteronomy 32:18; Isaiah 42:14), to the intimacy of breastfeeding (Isaiah 42:14; 49:15), to the motherly embrace of a hurting child (Isaiah 66:13), to the daily habits of child rearing (Hosea 11:3-4), to the fierce maternal instinct to guard a child (Hosea 13:8; Deuteronomy 32:11-12; Matthew 23:37), God does not shy away from identifying Himself with the most intense emotions and meaningful experiences of motherhood. Indeed, even the repeated description of God as “compassionate” evokes a sense of maternal care, as the underlying noun at the root of the Hebrew word for “compassion” is “womb.”
As I embark on this steep learning curve of discovering what it means to be a parent, it is an immense comfort to me to know that I am leaning on a God who can relate to both the heady joys and the intense sorrows of loving like a mother. When my heart is so overflowing with love that I feel like I could flood the world with it, I know I don’t need to try and find words to explain that to God; his love for his children runs so deep that we are engraved on his palms and ever on his mind (Isaiah 49:16). And when my heart trembles at the prospect of what my son might face in the days and years ahead, it settles me to know that Jesus, too, longs to gather up his people in the fiercely protective embrace of a mother hen (Matthew 23:37).
Last month, my son shed tears for the first time in his life. And as I wiped them away, I experienced a profound yearning to be there to wipe away every single one of his tears, accompanied by the horrible realization that I cannot be. And yet, I take comfort in the knowledge that God can be: that He will be there for every tear shed, and that one day He offers to wipe them all away.
This Mother’s Day — my first ever as a mother — I am thankful to be discovering a new dimension to God: the God who shows up every day to meet me in the laughter and tears, the joys and fears, of motherhood. And so I pray that each one of you mothers out there would encounter that same compassionate God this year: the compassion of a God who not only embraces your children, but who has not forgotten you.