“Congratulations,” my husband glanced up at me and grinned, “You’ve brought new life into the world again.” He fiddled with a final adjustment for a heat lamp suspended over a plastic tote full of wood chips and peeping chicks, then stood up. “Now,” he winced, “When can they go outside?”
This was the year I was determined to hatch out baby chickens. We have six healthy hens (although none of them will sit on eggs) and Eddie, a gorgeous, golden rooster. After six days of collecting and twenty-one days of turning and adjusting heat, humidity, and air flow in the incubator, seven of our fourteen eggs hatched. One never completely made it out of the shell and died. Another one had twisted legs and was much weaker than the others so I dried it off with a soft infant washcloth and dripped a few drops of sugar water into its beak. But after twelve hours of labored breathing under the heat lamp, it died too. The younger kids gave it little kisses before we tucked it into a teacup box with the washcloth and its half-hatched nestling. I took care of the burial.
We are now caring for five adorable yellow fluffballs by checking heat, refilling food and water almost hourly, cleaning bottoms and bedding, and holding them as much as I’ll allow. The cutest of all is our three year old who needs nebulizer treatments each morning. She gets set up with the machine and medicine and chooses a chick to cuddle in her lap for the twenty minute session. We are committed to mothering these things!
My husband reminded the children that God is described as a mother hen. They weren’t sure about that until he got out a Bible and read Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:37 out loud: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together as a hen gathers her young under her wing, but you are unwilling.” And Psalm 17:8, where King David begs the Lord to “hide me in the shadow of Your wings.” There were many unspiritual giggles. He couldn’t resist continuing with Psalm 136:12, “With a mighty hand and outstretched arm, his love endures forever.” God’s a big arm, kids. More giggles.
God is spirit, of course. John 4:24 says it straightforward, “God is a spirit” and He has revealed many of His facets. To name a few:
Creator (Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”)
Righteous (Psalm 11:7 “For the Lord is righteous; He loves justice.”)
Gracious and Compassionate (Psalm 145:8 “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.”)
Light (1 John 1:5 “God is light, in Him there is no darkness at all.”)
Holy (1 Peter 1:16 “Be holy because I am holy.”)
Love (1 John 4:8 “God is love.”)
And while God is likened to a mother hen and nursing mother (Isaiah 49:15), He is called Father by Jesus. Not that God is a male human, but that God is the beginner of life; the provider; the parent whose name is ours. We are directed to pray, “Our Father” by Christ. Only in Christianity is there a familial name for the Supreme Being. Jesus actually said, “Abba” in Mark 14:36, meaning “Daddy.” Saint Paul writes in Romans 8:15 that we, as God’s children, should call Him our Daddy as well. This would have been shocking to his Jewish readers and listeners. To call the great I Am, Daddy? The pagans also were probably unsure, much like my children, that a God could be a loving father who weeps with joy over a prodigal’s return.
And many grownups are skeptical from hurt. From Cardinal Donald Wuerl, “Not everyone, of course, has had a positive experience of fatherhood, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the popes have acknowledged that this can make prayer difficult. ‘The father’s absence, the problem of a father who is not present in a child’s life,’ said Pope Benedict, ‘is a serious problem of our time.’ Yet we overcome such obstacles by drawing nearer to the perfect Father, who is in heaven.”
What kind of father is God? Let us look to the Scriptures. “See what love the Father has bestowed upon us that we may be called the children of God. (1 John 3:1). We can read and see. We can call God our Father.
Those tiny chicks cannot survive without our care. I imagine they could do without my toddler’s kisses but I keep a close watch on her. We will keep them warm, fed, and safe and bring them to the barn when they are ready. It’s a simple picture of God’s loving care and desire for us to be home with Him.