The Mother-Love of God

When my grandfather was a grown man, he experienced a toothache so painful that he tried to climb into his mother’s lap. While that wouldn’t have made the pain go away, he knew that it would bring him another sort of comfort. It seems we never completely lose the desire to be embraced by a mother’s love.

My grandfather had grown too big for climbing into laps. Sometimes, we have the same problem seeking comfort from God. Our thoughts concern our problems – how to fix them or avoid them. Psalm 131 can teach us another way.

It bears King David’s name, and we know him as a man of action but not in this poem. This psalm appears in the middle of the Psalms of Ascent, the songs of a long pilgrimage toward Zion. In the midst of the journey, we may need to stop and rest as David did. We could imagine him alone in the wilderness, done with fighting and fleeing, seeking only the peace of God’s company.  To that end he writes of a return to dependence, a return to stillness, a return to childhood.

In distressing circumstances adults tend to cast about anxiously for a solution or look for someone else to blame. Psalm 131:1 teaches us to set aside these prideful thoughts, acknowledging that solutions are beyond us and that we are as fallen as the next sinner. A child is content to simply be held. A “weaned child,” as described in verse 2, might be three or four years old, still small but also independent. Such a child would no longer cry and look for milk from her mother’s breast, but she would be satisfied with the warmth of her arms and the protection of her presence as she sings her baby to sleep. That is the aspect of God which David wants us to experience, the encircling, restful and gentle mother-love of God.

We can only experience that stillness if we deliberately set aside the cares of the day and our attempts to fix them. We can only do that in a quiet space where nothing else intrudes. We can only do that when God alone is all we want, not the things He might give us. The Lord of the universe gave us birth and nurture and sustenance. He proved His incredible love for us once and for all on the cross. He has all the time in the world to sit and hold us in His arms. Let us not wait until pain finally drives us there. Climb up into His lap in humble dependence and enjoy His love today.


Questions:

  1. What present circumstance makes you most long for a mother’s loving comfort?
  2. Take five minutes right now to meditate on this psalm. Try to sit quietly in God’s lap, resting in His arms and His love. If you find yourself climbing down again, don’t be frustrated; just notice it, and go back to sit with Him a little longer.

This post was first published in 2013.

Christ Died for Our Mistakes

Our mistakes haunt us. The mom who was late to the game where her child got hurt, the grandfather who lost thousands to a swindle, the teen who glanced down and wrecked his father’s car. These unhappy people live with the guilt of their unintentional mistakes. We are limited and fallible as well as sinful. Christ died for all our imperfections. Some of you who love theology (and I do) may be tut-tutting right now. “No, indeed!” you say, “Christ died for our SINS, the very essence of the Gospel,” but today I want to reflect upon this: He also died for our mistakes.

Deliberate Sin

I’m reading through the Bible this year, and from my current perch in Deuteronomy, it has become clear to me that there were no Old Testament sacrifices for deliberate sins. There were only punishments. Knock out your neighbor’s tooth? No goat released into the wilderness for you – pony up your own tooth (Lev. 24:20)! Steal your neighbor’s ox? No dove divided for your sins – you give your neighbor five replacements (Ex. 22:1). Disrespect your parents? No lamb on the altar for you – you die (Lev. 20:9)! Severe, yes. Deserved, yes. A low view of my own sin causes me to think of Christ as an animal sacrifice, making symbolic atonement. Not so. Whenever I sin deliberately, Christ is not the lamb being slaughtered in my place, He is the MAN being slaughtered in my place.

Unintentional Sin

If deliberate sin deserved a punishment rather than a sacrifice, what was all that gore in the Tabernacle about? The answer is that those sacrifices were for our MISTAKES. (Some of them were also for our so-called ‘good deeds,’ for our worship, our fellowship, our blessings.) All those sin offerings were for “unintentional sins,” failures that turned up as regrets, ignorance that resulted in harm, blunders that were revealed after the fact (see, for example, Lev. 4:1-3, Num. 15:22-29). Those sacrifices atoned for our fallenness, not for our evil.

Uncleanness

As human beings, not one part of us is clean enough to stand before a holy God. Anything which makes us less than whole, less than His perfection, things like sickness and death, weakness and mistakes, requires a sacrifice of cleansing. Indeed, all that constitutes our finest offering, all our righteousness, is like a filthy garment in the presence of God (Is. 64:6). To this end, Christ makes continual – and effective – intercession for us (Heb. 7:23-25). Can you accept it?

Christ Died for Our Mistakes

As I counsel Christian clients, I find most of them are eventually willing to release the guilt of intentional sin at the foot of the cross. It seems harder to release our mistakes. The “what if’s” and “only if’s” and the self-accusations of stupidity, carelessness or worthlessness seem to stick harder for some people than true evil. Perhaps it is because we seldom hear that Christ died for these things. And yet, Christ is signified by every bull, goat, lamb or dove which ever burned on the blood-spattered altar of the Tabernacle (see Hebrews 9). Christ died for our mistakes every bit as much as He died for our sins.

Redemption

If you are carrying guilt or regret over mistakes from your past, you are carrying something which does not belong to you. You don’t get a do-over, much as you crave it, nor does your self-punishment relieve you of your burden. But the death of Christ out-weighs every mistake ever made by all God’s children. Our mistakes can be redeemed. Our fallenness can be cleansed. When you cast it off at the foot of the cross, God releases you from the burden of that mistake, promises to use it for good, and gives you the freedom, even the obligation, to forgive yourself. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). Not for your sins – and not for your mistakes.


If you have a mistake you are trying to release, try this prayer:

Heavenly Father, forgive me for the mistake I made when __________________. Thank you for sending Jesus to offer the perfect sacrifice for everything that I am, including this. Help me believe that He is enough to redeem it all. Please use my mistake somehow for good in Your kingdom, and help me release it into Christ’s waiting hands. Amen.

Transient Global Amnesia

My husband drove me to the airport last week where I passed through security (with some extra attention due to my artificial leg), found my gate and boarded a plane to visit my daughter, something I have done routinely for several years now. However, one thing wasn’t routine this time: I don’t remember any of it. From a particular point on our half-hour drive to the airport until the plane landed in Pittsburgh four hours later I have virtually no memory of anything that happened. My husband said I was acting strangely. For instance, I packed my travel mug containing the dregs of a just-finished cup of coffee, despite his puzzled inquiries. And I complained of some vertigo, apparently. But I am not a morning person, so I guess it didn’t look that different from my normal 6 a.m. muddle.

The next thing I knew, I woke as from a deep sleep (which may actually have been a deep sleep – I am not sure) as the plane bumped along the tarmac toward the terminal. The hours and stories of those I encountered along my twilight journey are lost, presumably forever. My seatmate seemed in a hurry to exit. A few items like my book and my boarding pass, appeared to be awol, but I found most of them tucked neatly into my backpack under the seat in front of me. My boarding pass was gone, but my id, cash, phone and credit cards were all where they should have been. From the moment I awoke, I was increasingly myself and have felt perfectly fine ever since. It was much like coming out of anesthesia after a minor medical procedure. I would pay a lot of money to have a video of my trip through the airport and onto the plane, because it is a miracle that I got uneventfully to my destination under the circumstances.

My family and I have considered multiple causes for this bizarre occurrence: sleep-walking, reaction to medication, seizure, mini-stroke… but (best of all possibilities), I believe I experienced an episode of Transient Global Amnesia, something I had never even heard of before. It may be related to migraine headaches in some way, and I am a life-long migraine sufferer. According to the Mayo clinic, this rare problem is unlikely to recur or to have any long-term effects.

While it relieves a burden of worry to know that this is a benign condition, my biggest emotion about the whole episode is gratitude. God cares for His helpless ones, and there is no better illustration of that for me. I spend most of my days believing that I am in control, that I can handle the small, easy things in life without resorting to prayer or any other conscious dependence upon God. I spend most of the rest of my time worrying about the ‘big’ things I’m afraid I have to manage. But it is all a trick of this fallen world, an illusion of control we maintain to allay our fears, an unfortunate barrier which keeps us at a distance from our Provider. Are we ever really any more in control of our journey, our well-being or our destination than I was at the airport last week? I think not. I can’t even control my own brain. The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs His steps (Prov. 16:9).

I don’t believe this experience will forever cure all my anxiety or rebellious independence, but I do hope it will serve as a touchstone and a reminder for me when I am tempted to forget that God cares for His helpless ones.

And that includes all of us, all the time.


If you or anyone you know has experienced Transient Global Amnesia, please reply to this post. I would love to hear about it!


Related Content:

Another lesson in control and trust from John Piper.
Scriptures about anxiety and God’s faithfulness by Lesli White.
A prayer about feeling out of control from Scotty Smith.