Monday, November 19, 2007

The bosom of God

Someone, someone should have told me that having children would mean having to live through all their pain, all their sorrows, all their disappointments.

Today I am feeling these acutely. There's no need to describe the details here. These are my children's problems, after all, not mine to blog about. And they're not huge, life-shattering issues--just life's ups and downs. But oh, my Lord, it hurts me to see them hurting.

I could take this issue to therapy and explore a) my own adolescent disappointments and b) the boundaries (or lack of same) between my children and myself. Why do I get so involved in what they are feeling--or what I imagine they are feeling? What haven't I resolved from my own past? Step back, get some perspective. The kids will turn out okay. Everybody has to experience life for themselves. You can't protect them from the real world. This is how they grow up.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

There's a line between understanding and sympathizing with another person's pain and being hurt by it yourself. As a parent, you walk very close to that line, and often you step over it. Before I had children, I read that mothers' selves merged with their infants. I did not understand how this could be so, could not imagine my way out of myself and into that truth. But within forty-eight hours of my first son's birth, he was me, every part of me. Twenty-one years later I have still not untangled that knot, not completely. A happy smile from one of my kids can kindle warm hearth fires around my heart, and their losses hurt me more than my own.

Is this why the image of God as parent is so powerful? It's not just the tender parental care--"Children of the heavenly father / safely in his bosom gather." It is the Creator at one with her creatures, a passionate mother or father whose heart grieves when we sin--not so much because justice is offended, but because of the pain we are in. That same God must also smile deeply when we act with love or receive love from others. That same God sent Jesus, the perfect son, to suffer with us.

Oh, to be as large as God! To be there in the sorrow, to inspire the love, to take it all in and be great and good! Maybe, gathered in God's bosom--and I'm thinking a nursing bosom, not a manly one--maybe in that bosom I too can be whole and great and good, in pain or happiness.

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