God gives birth
How becoming a mother gave Veronica Zundel new insights into the motherhood of God
I had a long, distressing stay in hospital after giving birth – “Hell on the fifth floor” as my husband Ed called it. When I was finally released, and we could go home and get to know our new baby, it was an intense, dramatic period in our lives. All my senses were heightened, and I lived and breathed “baby”. John was my total focus, and I could not think of anything else—except sleep, of course, of which I thought constantly. Our traumatic hospital experience, as well as John’s irregular sleeping habits, exhausted Ed and me when we had hardly begun, but this is not unusual with new parents. As I was still recovering from my “injuries”, I was unable to sit down properly for some months, so apart from breastfeeding, Ed was John’s main carer for his first six months or so.
We did manage to leave the house occasionally, even taking John to our church weekend away (although for only one night). One thing I noticed early in John’s life was that when I went out without him, leaving him in Ed’s care, I would not only find myself lactating when I thought about my baby, but that I would also have strange “pangs” in my abdomen, feeling something like the Braxton-Hicks contractions. It was as though my love for my child was something physical, tugging on my guts, keeping me focused on him even when he wasn’t with me.
Does God, looking at us, God’s children, feel similar darts of longing to be with us and for us to love God back? God’s love is, after all, not a detached kind of general love, but a particular, emotional, parent-like love. Could God, too, feel those “after-pangs”, as God created us and in effect gave birth to us? One of the Bible’s central images of how we can belong to God and know we are God’s children is the image of birth. When Nicodemus wanted to know how he could follow Jesus, Jesus answered: “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” … How is it that we have all learned parts of this by heart as the core of the gospel and failed to notice that Jesus, defining what it means to follow him, turns to women and women’s experience for his chief metaphor? [ellipses ours] …
This article is an extract from Veronica Zundel’s book, Everything I Know about God, I’ve Learned from Being a Parent (published by BRF, 2013, www.brfonline.org.uk, used by permission)
This is an extract from the July/August 2013 edition of Reform.