This Sunday, we celebrate Mother’s Day. In my family, we like to keep it simple. Our plans this weekend include, weather permitting, a nice, long hike. I consider hiking one of my favorite activities in the world, and I don’t get to do it nearly enough. In the busyness of life, it seems exceedingly hard to carve out time on the weekend to escape to nature - meandering streams, moss-covered rocks, sunlight flitting through newly bloomed trees - to immerse myself in the beauty of God’s precious Creation.
This week’s readings remind me not only of that beauty, but of God’s providence as Divine Creator—and our relationship with him and with each other. Acts 17 says:
“From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said,
‘For we, too, are his offspring.’”
In him we live and move and have our being - words that attempt to convey the depth and breadth of that familial bond, of our position as God’s beloved offspring.
It can be hard to wrap your mind around, truly. Just as parents, it can be difficult to put into words the depth of our bonds with our children. And as children, it can be challenging to express how loved we feel by our parents.
As we struggle to fully comprehend our identity as God’s offspring, the language of Acts 17 may resonate for us in this experience: We search for God, perhaps groping and finding him. We discover him not far away but very near, as near to us as our own heartbeat and breath. Yet sometimes hibernating deep within, yearning to be awakened, struggling to push through hard and rocky soil, gasping for oxygen and sunlight and connection with the rest of Creation.
We exist in a world that tries to trap us beneath hard and rocky soil. Every day brings the heartache of humanity’s havoc and destruction. Our children head off to school each morning with the possibility of being shot. Our young people are increasingly plagued by mental health struggles. Our planet groans with the pains of our abuse and exploitation. Like the people of ancient Babylon, our society basks in wickedness and sin, rejecting God’s love - and our sacred identity - time and again.
And yet, as Christians, as a resurrection people born anew in Christ, we strive and yearn and reach for God. As God’s offspring, created for a life of loving and serving, nothing else will bring us true peace and joy. And so, we seek: God the Father, God the Mother, God dwelling in every living creature that inhabits the Earth.
It can indeed be more than the human brain can comprehend. But one of my favorite passages from Henri Nouwen’s “Life of the Beloved” comes close, I believe, to capturing this sense of identity:
“I have called you by name, from the very beginning. You are mine and I am yours. You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests. I have molded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you together in your mother’s womb. I have carved you in the palms of my hands and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace. I look at you with infinite tenderness and care for you with a care more intimate than that of a mother for her child. I have counted every hair on your head and guided you at every step. Wherever you go, I go with you, and wherever you rest, I keep watch. I will give you food that will satisfy all your hunger and drink that will quench all your thirst. I will not hide my face from you. You know me as your own. You belong to me. I am your father, your mother, your brother, your sister, your love and your spouse...yes, even your child...whenever you are I will be. Nothing will ever separate us. We are one.”
So this Mother’s Day, whether it be a hike or a special breakfast with loved ones or another favorite activity, whether mother or father, grandparent or spouse, child or friend, may we continue to seek and find God in unexpected moments and places, may we experience resurrection through relationship, and may we find peace in our sacred identity as God’s Beloved.