Contemplative Guide 2 – Vulnerability

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?

 

– Isaiah 49:15

 

Stilling: Being present to God

Begin with a simple stilling exercise.one candle 3

You may want to light a candle, or say a short prayer as you intentionally place yourself in the presence of the Holy One.

Find a comfortable position and be still for a couple of minutes. Concentrate on your breathing – slowly, in and out. Relax your muscles. Don’t worry about any thoughts that come into your head; acknowledge them, then come back to your stilling exercise.

 

Say the following prayer as you commit to being in God’s presence:

Dear God,

You sustain me and feed me;

Like a shepherd you guide me;

You lead me to an oasis of green,

To lie down by restful waters.

Dwell in me that I may dwell in you.

 

From Jim Cotter, Psalms for a pilgrim people, Psalm 23

 

God, the nursing mother

In a wonderful verse in Isaiah, the prophet uses the illustration of a nursing mother: ‘Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?’ Impossible as that may seem, Isaiah contrasts that with God’s steadfast love: ‘Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.’[1]

This image of God as a nursing mother is so, so powerful. It cuts through all our stereotypes of a vengeful, stern judge or an omnipotent, unapproachable creator. Instead we see a different side of God’s character – tender, passionate, caring, vulnerable. It invites us to come to God in such a different way. We come, not so much as miserable sinners cowering beneath ‘his’ judgement and in need of repentance and atonement, but as beloved children invited to nestle into ‘her’ bosom, to be cradled in her arms, to be enfolded in her love. A nursing mother does not place demands on her baby; she takes her up in her arms to love her and cherish her.

This is challenging; it challenges our preconceptions of who God is and what God is like. It also challenges our approach to the Holy One. Can we come to God as vulnerable, newborn babies, willing to put aside our pride and be accepted into her loving embrace? If we can, this move to become like a little child carries with it a wonderful promise of God’s tender, embracing, steadfast love for us.

 – Growing up to be a child, chapter 2

 

 

Prayer: Encountering God

Choose one of the two exercises below as a contemplative approach to prayer: Encountering God in Art (Imago Divina) or Encountering God in Scripture (Lectio Divina)

 

Response: Journalling

If you keep a journal, take time to reflect on what you have experienced through either of the ‘encountering’ exercises. Write down your thoughts. You may just want to write down a few words or phrases that express something of what you have felt, or you may want to draw something that captures your thoughts or feelings.

 

Closing: Going on in God’s presence

Finish your time by saying the Lord’s Prayer.

 

[1] Isaiah 49:15,16.

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