This morning I was reading Mt 23, and I felt compelled to reflect a little longer. Christ uses the simile of a hen drawing her chicks under her wing to illustrate his own desire to draw us to Himself. What a funny image. A robust, full breasted-hen, full of warmth and love, just trying to pull her little, aimless chicks under her wing, because she knows that she can keep them safe. She can shield them from the fox that might be prowling or the wind and the rain that might weaken their tiny constitutions. But what does Christ say in the same breath? “You were not willing.” He longs to bring us to himself, but we just won’t come. We know what’s best; we have a better idea; we’re pretty sure that we’re already doing what he asks, anyway.
I remember this playing out a hundred times a day when my children were all small, but even now, we still see them recoil from the loving arms of forgiveness when it means they have to take responsibility for their actions. My eight-year-old has an uncanny ability to just stare me down when I ask, “What did you do wrong?” They are often not willing to come into the arms of forgiveness.
I do this all the time with God. He reaches out to me, knowing what’s best for me, knowing how to protect and love me, and I decide that I would rather shake my head in silence because I am not ready to be in his presence. His presence causes me to look deeper into myself, and maybe I don’t want to do that yet. Or being in his presence makes me realize how much I really need him, all the time, and I still want to think that I can do it on my own.
The funny thing is that I know enough to know that I cannot do it without him. I am the first one to admit that I need him every day to make me loving, and patient, and kind. But saying I need him, and actually allowing him to help are two very different things. Saying I need him when all is calm is easy, even makes me sound holy, but allowing him to help me when there are twelve loads of laundry to do, and a wedding to plan, and two teenagers on totally different schedules who don’t drive yet, and four other children four years apart who never seem to stop arguing. Out of the protection of his wing, these moments will make me crazy, make me yell or even cry, but in the shadow of his wing I find the patience, the perspective, and the humor to deal with the chaos. Wine also helps, and God loves wine.
The weeks ahead of me are beyond busy, but if I can focus on the reality that all God is really asking is for me to draw near, I know I will survive. We must bring our burdens, our impatience, our fatigue, our ineptitude, our bad attitude, and our frustration and lay them down under his wing. He promises to replace them all with joy, with perspective, with hope, with love, and with strength that can only come from him. It’s only when we realize that we have nothing left to give that he can transform our mourning into dancing, our tears into laughter, and our weakness into strength. He is sitting and waiting. All we have to do is come.