The other night I was rocking my younger to sleep. The practice is slowly becoming a rarity. She is getting a bit big for rocking, and now seems to prefer me to sing to her in her bed without rocking her. The loss of that privilege is one more thing on the list of preferences that demonstrate she is becoming a big girl and is needing me less and less. So, although she consented to the rocking, her body revealed her resistance. She was tense and alert. But once I was able to quiet her down, and the rocking continued, her body began to let go. Fatigue overcame her, and I could feel her body gradually relaxing in my arms. That willful, determined, independent little girl was able to let go for a moment, and give into sleep in my arms.
As the tension in her body melted away, I wondered if that is how God feels when I finally cede control to God – if I am similarly determined and defiant when it comes to my relationship with God. The revelation reminded me of the lament of Jesus from Matthew 23, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” I have always loved that image of the hen gathering her brood, but I never thought about how willful those chicks felt to the mother hen, how willful we are when it comes to God.
As I held my child that night, and I felt her breathing slow and her muscles untense, I was keenly aware of how our bodies were becoming more sympathetic. Her relaxing into me allowed me to relax too – such that I was not fighting for intimacy with her but just experiencing it. Barriers came down, just for a moment, and we were able to just lean into one another.
I wonder what barriers are up between you and God these days. What might leaning into God, trusting God to handle your vulnerability and weakness, feel like? I do not think God wants us to give up our strength, independence, or drive. But I do suspect that we would do a better job with those if we were bold enough to admit when we need God too. That may mean confessing that to God directly. It may mean finding a trusted friend who can serve as Christ for you this week. Or it may mean confessing that weakness to a friend who is also struggling so that they can see their weakness as beloved as yours. Allowing ourselves to be gathered by God’s mothering wings – even if only every once in a while – might just be what we need to strengthen us for Christ’s work in the world.