God the Parent

I thought I knew a lot about God . . . and then I became a mother.

Becoming a parent expanded my understanding of God exponentially. First, marveling at a child being knit together in my womb, the holy privilege of tending God’s mysterious miracle. Then the joy of actually (finally!) meeting and holding this little being, a unique combination of my husband and me and generations before us.

I still remember her screams when I accidentally nicked her fingers while attempting to trim her tiny nails.

But along with the joy came a great sense of responsibility: the weight of care. This tiny baby now depended on me for nourishment and protection. I still remember her screams when I accidentally nicked her finger while attempting to trim her tiny nails. Help! I needed so much wisdom and skill to do this child-raising properly.

That need for expertise only grew as our family expanded. Our second daughter arrived with an astonishingly different temperament than her sister. To my chagrin, I could not coast on my previous parenting “success”—now exposed as mainly myth. Instead, I had to find fresh resources to navigate these new challenges.

I realized that, as hard as I might try to be Supermom—all-seeing, all-powerful, all-knowing—I could not guarantee the safety or eternal wellbeing of our children. Even while I slept, anything could happen to them, let alone when they would leave the nest as fledgling kindergartners! And here is exactly where I learned more about God—who is all-seeing, all-powerful, all-knowing. Over time I learned to entrust our children more fully to God, the loving parent who is not limited in any way by time, place, or circumstances.

I also realized that I too had a deep need to be parented by God on this journey of nurturing children. Day by day I required so much more wisdom than I had—and only God could provide the wisdom I needed. Because God promises to be a generous dispenser of wisdom to those who seek and ask, my seeking and asking increased.

And I read with new wonder the scriptural images of God as a tender parent. One who gathers and shelters offspring like a mother hen, covering them with feathers (Ps. 91:4). One who is familiar with the intimacy of nursing young ones until they are satisfied (Isa. 66:11). One who teaches toddlers to walk by holding their hands and bends down to feed them (Hos. 11:3-4). One who does the hard work of discipline. Who knows the pain not only of rebellion and rejection, but also of profound loss. A parent who is working to make all things well again.

All of us—those who are parents and those who feel keenly our own need to be parented—have much to learn from God, the parent who never leaves us.

Reflection

My own life as a wife and mother, daughter and friend, has taught me to see God hidden in the ordinary, to watch for God under the surface of things as a fisherman watches for fish.

—Deborah Smith Douglas

About the Author

Rev. Joan VanderBeek DeVries is interim pastor at Jubilee Fellowship CRC in St.Catharines, Ontario. She is also a Ph.D. candidate at McMaster Divinity College. She lives with her family in Burlington, Ontario.

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