Two tender images; a mother nursing her infant at her breast; a mother lifting and carrying her child. The first is a symbol of intimate caring; the second that of reaching out. The infant at the breast needs to be nursed and nourished, if he is to grow. Perhaps, even more than the milk with which his mother feeds him, he needs to feel and experience the warmth of her love. I have at times visited orphanages and crèches in a cassock. A long white flowing cassock to an infant must seem a strange garb apart from a stranger’s face! But to my utter surprise, when I would lift up and carry an infant, despite my ‘strange garb’, several others would queue up and cry to be carried. I recall how once I had as many as three babies in my arms. With more than two hands full, I noticed how a fourth child, who could just about stand, literally kept pulling the legs of some of the infants in my arms only because she too wanted to be carried! You might call this skin hunger. Or could it be love hunger, something that we all experience?
An infant at the mother’s breast – What a tender image of God’s dealing with us! God nurses and nourishes us. He feeds us with Himself. He hugs us close to His heart and makes us feel and experience the warmth of His love. He comforts and consoles us. Were He not to nurse us thus, we would not grow. Deep within there would still be that love hunger unmet and unsatisfied. But there comes a time when God, like any loving mother, must wean us. Being weaned can be painful. We might even be tempted to think that God does not anymore care for or love us. Or conclude that He wants to stunt our growth. Just the opposite is true! For He weans us precisely so that we may grow strong and sturdy. From liquids to solids, from ‘wetness’ to ‘dryness’, from consolation to desolation, from childhood to adulthood, He desires our growth. We might still want to cling to the breasts of His love failing to realize that He has already prepared us for more solid food.
A mother lifting and carrying a child – Is this too not a beautiful image of God’s dealings with us? We want to walk, go our own way, to advance with our meager resources. We behave like stubborn toddlers who have just learned to walk and think that they can manage on their own. But God, in His loving care and concern, seeing us struggle, stumble and fall, stoops to lift and carry us, so that by being borne in His arms we may make quicker progress.
Whether as infants or as adults we always need God. We need discernment to know what God woos and weans us. Our spiritual growth depends in the measure that we keep step with His pace and plans for us.