Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Womb Of God

"Compassion" by Mary Southard

The Hebrew word for compassion is rechem, which is also their word for womb. Compassion is birthed from the womb of God. What a glorious image that is. And yet, there are many that might be uncomfortable or take offense at such a mothering image of God.

Rechem is listed as both masculine and feminine. Father and mother. Complete. Whole. Neither diminished. Both equal. That's why Eve is described in Genesis as an ezer, which is the word most often used in scriptures to describe God.

Compassion comes from deep within God. To give birth to, is to labor, it requires one to enter into pain and suffering. The compassion birthed out of God is our Creator entering into our own suffering, brokenness, fear, and anguish. This is not some distant and aloof God. This is not some existential God who created all things and then withdrew from that very creation.

The womb is where the child develops and grows. What a marvelous picture of our faith: that we grow within the womb or compassion of God. Doctors say that, inside the womb, an unborn baby reacts to his or her mother's movements as well as their mother's emotional state. If a mother laughs, the baby begins to bounce. But if the mother experiences sadness, the baby moves less. There is an interconnectedness between mother and child. That is the kind of communion God longs to have with us again as we allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit. God longs for the relational tenderness of a mother to her child with us.

And even when we forget God, scriptures remind us that God cannot forget us. Certainly this brings to mind Isaiah 49:15-16, "Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands . . ." God as a mothering image. God nursing a child at her breast. The milk of a mother meets whatever needs the suckling child has. If the infant is sick, there are mammary gland receptors that pick up on the bacteria and virus in her body and will change the milk's immunological composition to help the baby fight off the infection. The womb of God, as well as God as nursing  mother are among the most powerful and loving images of God's relationship to us and stresses our own desperate need for God as life.

Or what about Deuteronomy 32:18, "You were unmindful of the Rock that gave you birth; you forgot the God who suffered labor pains for you."

While we may forget this mothering God, it becomes obvious that this God does not forget us. This God who gave birth to us out of the compassionate womb will never, ever forget the sons and daughters of Her womb.

Compassion is one of the very attributes of God. This attribute requires God to enter into the places of our suffering, anguish and pain. This explains' tender heart for women whose wombs are barren or are unable to carry a baby to term. As Psalm 113 reminds us, "God gives the barren woman a home..."

Henri Nouwen writes that "Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human."

By God's very nature, God's compassion means that our heavenly Father/Mother is fully immersed in the condition of our humanity. God is present. God enters into our anguish and comforts as a mother comforts her hurting child.

God groans out in labor pains just as Romans 8:22 reminds us because, from that compassion, that womb, will come a new creation.

A womb gives life and nourishment. A child develops in the womb. Doctors say that the womb is the first place where the infant begins to explore and learn. The unborn child even begins forming memories of tastes from the flavors that the food the mother has eaten during pregnancy (because the amniotic fluid carries those flavors). The compassion of God gives us life and nourishment. We develop in God. God feels for us as a mother feels for the child of her womb. This compassion born of God's womb is poured out on us and willingly enters into our world to participate just as a mother will run to her child who has fallen and gotten hurt.  God wants to alleviate our distress, wipe away our tears, kiss us and tell us, "It's okay. I'm here now." Isaiah 66:13 tells us, "As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you . . ."

I am reminded of Julian of Norwich's description of God as "our true Mother in whom we are endlessly born and out of whom we shall never come." The womb, the compassion of God is where we live and breathe and have our being.

It's only when we realize the truth of this, God as both father and mother, that we can begin to have a more complete image of the one who created us.

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