Who's your mother?
It seems there comes in a time in every PhD candidates life when they start working ridiculously long hours. I have hit that time in the program. I am trying to get my thesis written which means that I drop Calvin off at nursery in the morning, get into the office and stay there until around 30 minutes before he goes to bed so that I can get a little time with him before he is off to sleep. I don’t love the hours that I have to work right now to get this thesis done, but I know that it is important for my family and our future. This is especially true as we get closer to having Grace come home. The thesis needs to be done, so that when she comes home, I don’t have to worry about it anymore.
Working these long hours means that more is put on Taryn’s shoulders. Honestly, she is pretty amazing. The way she cares for and loves our family and particularly our children has always awed me, but these last few weeks it has been extraordinary. I can’t say enough about how she has supported me and our family these last few years and specifically in these last months. Watching her care for us and how that care has made Calvin grow, how that care has effected his affection for her and me, has been nothing short of astounding.
As I have thought about these things, it has reminded me of the ‘father-mother’ analogy that is used throughout church history when talking about the God as our Father and the church as our Mother. The most famous quote I can think of is Cyprian of Carthage (d. 258) who said, ‘He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the church for his mother.’ Calvin put it this way:
I shall start, then, with the church, into whose bosom God is pleased to gather his sons, not only that they may be nourished by her help and ministry as long as they are infants and children, but also that they may be guided by her motherly care until they mature and at last reach the goal of faith…. for those to whom he is Father the church may also be Mother.
Now unlike me, it isn’t that God is really busy and therefore the church has to step in for a time. No, God isn’t too busy. In fact, it is interesting that as we look at countless texts of Scripture what we find is that not only is God with us always, but he is with us in a special way at worship on the Lord’s Day (Psalm 63:2; Eph 1:23, 2:19-22; 1 Pet 2:5; Rev 1; etc.). So, why do we need the church? Why does the church exist? If God is with me always, why do I need to be at church on Sunday morning?
I think Calvin hints at the reason. The church exists to teach us how to grow up. She exists so that from her, we can learn how to love, honor, worship, and glorify God. Psalm 63:1-2 says:
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.
Our souls are hungry and thirsty and the church teaches how they can be satisfied. Don’t get me wrong, the church doesn’t satisfy our souls. The church only points us to the one who can satisfy our souls. The church teaches us how to go to him and find our satisfaction in him. Like Taryn with Calvin, the church teaches us how to delight in the presence of our Father who is always among us.
This particular busyness in my life will end. It will most likely end around the time that we bring Grace home. The fun thing that will happen when she comes home is that Calvin, who has been nurtured by Taryn, will come alongside Grace and help her to feel more and more like a part of our family. Taryn will do the same. I will do the same. However, I am convinced that Calvin will be the key to Grace feeling at home. What he has learned from us up to this point, he will unconsciously pass on to Grace. He will help her to know that she fits into our family and how she fits.
This is what each of us do in the church. As we are discipled and grow up in the church, we go out and bring people in. People that don’t know they are hungry and thirsty, we point to the only one that can satisfy their hunger and thirst. As people come in into the church we help them to learn their role in this new family, this new humanity. We often do this unconsciously, but we do it. This is not because the church somehow satisfies our hunger and thirst, but because the one who does satisfy it, promises to meet us every time we gather together to worship him. God is our Father, and the church nurtures us as our Mother; constantly teaching us and causing us to find our satisfaction in him.
One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. - Psalm 27:4