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Sinners in the Hands of a Nursing God

Outwardly, I’m sure it looked as if I was listening intently as the assisting minister read from Isaiah. Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.

Inwardly, I was counting the number of hours since my daughter had last eaten, worried that my breast pads would not hold and that I was about to step into the pulpit and demonstrate the irrefutable truth behind this metaphor.

After years of infertility, testing, treatments, loss, and nine months of vomiting, I have entered new territory in my life: I am a nursing mom. A nursing mom-pastor, to be exact. I read someplace that we only encounter those “seventh and eighth weeks of Epiphany” lessons about once every twenty years, which seemed right for me – that the congregation and I are entering this newness together, a place we have rarely trod as a church. My male colleague has a daughter also, but she’s eighteen, and I doubt he ever worried about leaking onto his alb.

It seemed a little much for me to preach on those nursing texts at the moment. Too vulnerable, private, and intense for public reflection. Several mom-pastors reminded me of Heidi Neumark’s wonderful story from Breathing Space, about the time she letdown so forcefully that the color began to run from her stole onto her alb, but this is the sort of story you can only tell after the fact. Long after the fact, if then. So, no, I didn’t preach on the image of a nursing God.

But I carry it with me, especially at 2:00 in the morning when the house is quiet, my child wakes to eat and my husband is snoring blissfully. I curse him briefly, but the truth is, there is deep holiness in that night feeding. In every feeding, actually. I am grateful for the opportunity to do this. Breastfeeding was hard for us: painful, at the beginning, so much so that I nearly gave up after four weeks of it. We finally realized that our girl was tongue-tied, and once that was treated, it got much better (slowly). I struggled with the clear fact that we needed to supplement her with formula, since she wasn’t able to gain weight correctly until the tongue issue was resolved.

All those voices in my head repeating the mantra over and over again – “breast is best, breast is best” – they haunted me at night, during the day, each time I scooped the powder into the bottle and shook it up until it frothed and foamed and she gulped it as if she had been starving for days. Was I not enough for her? Was my body, so long a failure at reproduction, now destined to be a failure at feeding as well? Can a woman forget her nursing child?

Now we are into the rhythm of breastfeeding, and it has taken on a life of its own. Every two hours or so, my body reminds me that there is a child who is probably hungry – even when she is nowhere near. I can be counseling a divorced couple, managing a staff conflict, searching frantically for the remote control that turns on the TV in the youth room, presiding at communion and, bidden or unbidden, the milk comes. My body is not my own.

Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. The breastfeeding class teacher told us it might be hard in the beginning, but I had no idea how hard it could be. The pain level was nearly intolerable – and she ate 10 times each day. I bit my lip, gritted my teeth, cried hot, salty tears while my child wept her own frustration. We had to learn together, she and I. We were not naturals at this at first. Our relationship was not easy in those early days, the way you imagine mother-and-child-at-breast to be. It turned out that breastfeeding needed a community of support: my mother, friends, sister-in-law, and the merciful and gracious lactation consultants who would show us the way. They did not forget us.

It sounds like such a beautiful image, this “God as nursing mother.” Paired with the psalm for the day: “I still my soul and make it quiet, like a child upon its mother’s breast,” we read together, while I remembered the feeding session before church that morning. She was squirming, pulling, popping off the nipple to look around the room, latching back on to nurse forcefully for another 30 seconds before yanking off again to give me an irresistible smile. Not exactly the sort of “quieted soul” I believe the psalmist wanted me to envision.

They are messy, vulnerable, imperfect images. Of hard, painful, sometimes impossible realities. For there are costs to this life-giving work: interrupted sleep, pain, disrupted schedules, unpredictable needs, slow weight-gainers and poor latches and sharing such a private part of your body with another. It does not come easily. Even though you think it should, and consequently worry that something is wrong with you when it doesn’t.

Not so different from faith, perhaps. Which also interrupts, an impossible reality in the midst of your day. Bringing with it others who have unpredictable needs, difficulty learning the way, who make increasing demands upon your deepest self. Who are far from the ‘quieted souls’ we imagined pastoring in the early days.

And so we take our nourishment from a life-giving God. Who nurses us, despite the pain, the sacrifice, the disruption and interruption, the constant demands. Who responds with love, as if there were no choice – as if love simply poured from God like milk, let down because it cannot be stopped. Who will not, cannot, forget us, no matter how far we run. Who knows each time we cry, each time any child cries, for love cannot refuse to flow.

Can a woman forget her nursing child? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a child who needs to eat.

 

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Comments

  1. Love this. I’m nursing, too. I love the theological connections you make here!

    • (prophetic words)

      My Precious Child, I will Nurse You Back to Health!

      My Precious Child

      When you feel wounded and hurt by the attacks of the enemy, then come to My throne of grace. Come in and sit on My lap and drink from My Spirit of love. Lay your head upon My breast and I will nurse you back to health. For I love you and want you well My child. My love for you is like a mother’s love for her baby. I want to hold you close to My breast and feed you My love and healing. So come and let Me nurse you with My love and healing that I have for you. Drink in My love and healing for receiving is drinking in the Spirit realm. Let Me nurse you back to health. I will hold you and feed your spirit, My love, My mercy, My grace and My healing. I will nurse you back to health if you will come to My throne of grace. I will comfort you the way that a nursing mother comforts her baby at her breast; I will comfort you with My Spirit. Just drink in My love and mercy and healing that I have for you. For I am indeed like a nursing mother, I can nurse My children back to health by feeding them with My Spirit: My love, My mercy, My healing. So come into My throne of grace and sit on My lap and drink from Me the bread of life for My Spirit is full of love for you, and mercy, and I am more then enough to satisfy you. I have plenty of love to feed all My children, who need My love and mercy. My Spirit is full of love for you so just drink in My love that I have for you. My children are never too old to drink from My Spirit. Drink from My Spirit as much as a baby would drink milk from its mother.

      Isaiah 66:13

      As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comfort over Jerusalem.On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice” If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”

      My Dear Precious Child

      I have the ability to feed and comfort you by My Spirit. I am the bread of life. I am living water. I am the Spring that never runs dry. Come to Me if you are thirsty and hungry for Me. I will satisfy you and comfort you with My Spirit. Just like a mother has the ability to feed and comfort a baby at her breast so I too can comfort and feed your Spirit nourishment from My Spirit. Come and I will feed you.

      Love,

      Father God

      As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem. Isaiah 66:13

      My Precious Children,

      I see your pains, and tears and I want you to know, I am there. Even when you don’t feel Me, I am there holding you and bringing comfort to you.

      You feel dry and empty but I want you to know, I am the Source of Nourishment, the Bread of Life, and the Living Water.

      For I am like a nursing mother who wants to feed and comfort her children. I love you more then a mother could ever love her baby.

      I shed every drop of my blood so that I could give you new birth. Every drop of My blood paid for your new birth and I am here to nourish that which I gave birth too.

      The nourishment has always been there but it is you who have to start drinking My nourishment in. I can’t do your drinking for you. I can only offer Myself to you but you must do the drinking. You drink from Me by spending time in My Word, by praising Me, by Christian fellowship. Listening to teaching tapes and praise tapes is one way to feed on Me.

      You do it rather you feel like it or not and when you do it rather you feel like it or not, I promise I will be there to bless you to in power you, to re firer you. When you fellowship with Me and obey me rather you feel like it or not then you are walking in the Spirit and not the flesh. I love you My precious ones.

      Love

      Jesus the Bread of Life

      Spiritual Wet Nurse!!!

      My Precious child,

      When you feel dry and hungry then come to Me. I am like a Spiritual Wet Nurse. I will hold you, feed you and quench your thirst. For out of My Spirit will flow living waters of nourishment to nourish and quench your hungry, thirsty soul. Come to Me, drink from Me and I will satisfy you. I promise that I will satisfy you. You will be satisfied with My comforting Spirit for as a mother comforts a child, I will comfort you. For out of my Spirit will flow streams of living water to quench your thirst. You will not feel dry or be dry anymore if you come to Me and drink from Me the spring of living water. Come to Me, all who are thirsty and dry and I will give you drink, I will comfort you like a mother will comfort a child for I am the only one that can satisfy your dry thirsty hungry soul. Come to Me the bread of life, the spring of living water.

      Love

      The spring of living water, the bread of life.

      John 7:37-39 (New International Version)

      37On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as[a] the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” 39By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

      Isaiah 66:13 (New International Version)

      13 As a mother comforts her child,
      so will I comfort you;
      and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

      copyright in 2006
      Words from the Lord to Pamela Susette

  2. Absolutely beautiful writing. Blessings to you and your whole family.

  3. So true, so true. I can say nothing but amen AND amen. This was very powerful and touching. Our bodies do not forget those we have fed- in many ways.

  4. It took me a while to comment as I’m heartbroken-ly unable to nurse my second child. She has a soft cleft palate (which means it’s not visible externally) and we gave it a go, but it’s just too hard for her to be able to nurse and grow. Now that she knows she can get milk easier from a bottle, she gets easily frustrated at the breast and turns away. How often do we turn away from God when things seem to come easier from other sources?
    BUT, I’m still providing my baby with breastmilk by my pumping. I cannot forget–my body doesn’t forget her needs and she still gets her nourishment from me. And so too, I believe, God’s nourishment, God’s love, comes to us even when we turn away–when we look for an easier way. God’s body still doesn’t forget. And as you said, “love cannot refuse to flow.”

  5. i read this a while ago and have been sitting with it…it’s lovely. the thought of God’s bending towards us in a similar way makes me feel much more tender towards my nipple-chomping babies. :)
    seriously though what a wonderful image. so tangible…

  6. Thank you for this post! I am also a nursing mother and newly ordained pastor. I read this while pumping and frustrated that I am not getting enough for her while I’m at work. It brought me to tears. As I get frustrated, I will remember this. The image of God as a nursing mother is simply beautiful! We are definitely the constantly demanding infant. Yet, as mothers we have come a little closer to understanding the amazing love that God has for us.

  7. This was me two years ago! Thank you–I think this is the most moving and beautiful thing I have ever read on Fidelia’s Sisters.

  8. Absolutely beautiful! Spiritual references to nursing are all-too-often trite and overly pastel. It is exhausting, demanding, painful at times, and yet incredibly fulfilling work – the true gift of self. I will be sharing this with many nursing mothers I know – thank you.

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