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A Mother’s Wing

Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem—you murder the prophets, and you stone those sent to you! Oh, how often have I yearned to gather you together, like a hen gathering her chicks under her wings! But you would have none of it. ~ Matthew 23:37

If you think time passes too quickly, don’t watch a bird’s nest. The three American Robins that were eggs the first week of May are out of the nest here during the first week of June. Human babies definitely spend a wee bit longer than four weeks in our homes. We might complain as our offspring grow that they are metaphorically eating us out of house and home, but that is literal for birds. Not long after hatching, the mama bird struggles to pull those nestlings close under her wings so she can hold them close and keep them safe. By the time they fill the nest, they are eating so much that the deliveries of food can’t keep up with demand.

Not only is it natural and normal for nestlings to become fledglings, take wing and leave the nest empty, it would be foolish and counter-productive for the parents to attempt to keep them there. There are threats all around these young birds and their ability to fly and feed themselves are the best defenses. The parents are so hard-wired with this knowledge that some species will push their young out when it becomes necessary. I’ve witnessed Wood Ducklings tumble 15 feet from a hole in a tree and bounce on the lawn before they could fly, but could swim. And the inspirational image of being carried on eagles’ wings is more akin to the classic parental fib that they will hold the bike when the training wheels are off. Sometimes parents do know best.

God’s relationship to us as parent is certainly as one who knows when to protect and when to push. Too often, we appear to want a neurotic parent who will tell us what to have for breakfast and tie our shoes for us when we are well past the point when those things need to be done for us. But like any loving parent, when we, their children, are in dire straits, even of our own doing, their heart breaks. When Jesus looks at Jerusalem, the very place where the history of violence toward people like him will soon repeat itself, he can’t help but long to mother these broken children.

Prayer: Mother Hen, we need the undeserved shelter of your wing. Thank you for never withholding it. Amen.


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