Fellow Passengers: This week’s Poetry Passage* (Psalm 131) transports me to the hearth and home of family love, where a gracious mother comforting a troubled child paints a picture of God’s embracing grace. Most of the images of God in scripture are male oriented: father, king, warrior. This is one of the few passages that take us into the maternal realm of God’s presence in our lives. For anyone like me who had the blessing of a loving mother who was deeply immersed in faith, the image sure works. It helps me to understand God’s love at a deeper level to connect it to Mama’s love.
I never got too big to sit in my Mama’s lap. No amount of kidding or poking fun by my friends or suggestions of an Oedipal complex could break my habit of jumping square into her lap while she sat at the kitchen table drinking sweet tea or talking on the phone or taking a rest from her work. This went on well into my teen years. It was the ultimate comfort zone. No matter what embarrassment or humiliation or rejection I might have experienced at school, Mama’a lap was a place where love was a given. No questions asked. We didn’t have to say too much. Sometimes she would be humming or whistling. Her favorite tune was “Blessed Assurance.” Perfect submission, all is at rest. That was the feel of it.
The Psalmist says here that he never got too big or too haughty to feel like a weaned child, quieted at his mother’s breast. Perhaps this is the image of God Charles Wesley had in mind when he wrote the beautiful hymn, Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly. It is a picture of comfort, of assurance, tender as a mother’s love. It is an image that must have inspired the saint, Julian of Norwich, who lived during the Black Death sweeping England in the late 1300s, to pray often to “our heavenly Mother Jesus.” There are certainly plenty of people in the world who missed out on the experience of a loving mother, who have difficulty with the imagery. Some have discovered an alternative maternal relationship through the natural world, thinking about the comfort and embrace of Mother Nature. My favorite Bob Dylan song describes this kind of comfort, this kind of rest for the weary that can come from sitting in the lap of God’s wondrous creation. Like Jesus’ invitation to come to him when we are weary and heavy laden, Dylan invites us to lay down our weary tunes. The last of leaves fell from the trees, and clung to a new love’s breast. The branches bare like a banjo played to the winds that listened best. Lay down your weary tune, lay down, lay down the song you strum and rest yourself neath the strength of strings no voice can hope to hum. This is my story, this is my song.
*Daily Passages are the weekday reflections of Stan Dotson, connecting culture to biblical texts. Each week takes its guiding theme for the daily posts from the gospel reading on Monday, the “Primary Passage.” This week’s theme is “Burdens.” As always, your feedback and comments are welcome. Feel free to share where the passages take you in your journey of faith.