Having spent more than 60 years living on this earth, with a large part of it in serious pursuit of knowing God, I still find it pretty amazing that after all this time, some of the most impacting revelations of God to me are derived from discussions with a seven year old. It happened again last week, when my grandson asked, “If we can’t see God, how do we really know that He is real?”
How do we know that God is real, when we can’t see Him? And even more, how do you explain “God” in terms that a seven-year-old can comprehend? Gratefully, I remembered a picture that I saw circulating on Facebook recently of twin babies in the womb, one asking the other, “Do you believe in Mom?” to which the other answers, “Of course not! After all, have you ever actually seen her?”
…and all the while, they are surrounded by their mother’s constant presence, being continuously nourished, protected and cared for by her, sheltered by her as they continue to grow and mature and become what they were destined to be, owing their very life and existence to her.
That picture so strongly impacted me, not only because I’ve had the great privilege of having carried several babies as a mother myself, but because I am also currently in a chapter of life where babies have been arriving in our family in pretty rapid succession. (We are currently expecting our ninth grandchild, all under not-yet-eight years of age– pretty much one or more every year since 2005.) And still, every single time, I am totally and completely awed at the miracle of life, reading books every time to track the growth and maturity of each one as he/she is still being formed in the womb.
So I asked him, “Jakob, where is your baby sister right now?”
“In my Mom’s tummy,” he said.
“What’s it like in there?” I asked.
“If you were to ask your baby sister if she believes in mothers, what would she say?”
Tripping over the fact that the baby isn’t able to answer such questions, Jakob eventually begin to understand that even though his baby sister cannot see her mom or have the ability even to comprehend her presence, mom is currently the very source of her sustenance– nourishing her, protecting her, keeping her from harm, sheltering her as she grows and matures and becomes fully formed. Whether baby sister acknowledges her existence or not, mom is very real indeed!
Honestly, I don’t know how much of this Jakob comprehends. But as for me, this idea has set my own mind spinning in the last week as I have been thinking so deeply of how the Bible itself uses ‘birth’ to help us comprehend the sheer vastness of God, and our entrance into His truly awesome Kingdom. I’ve been realizing, even after more than 60 years, how incredibly small my own picture of ‘God’ has been for so much of that time! Far too often, we humans use only ourselves, our own point of reference, to try to understand God, to bring Him down to our own small ideas. Consequently we end up with silly pictures of God that vastly limit– and even distort– our comprehension of what He really is. A big, stoic old man with a long white beard? A jolly old elf in a red velvet suit? A big black Mama named Papa?… These pictures are all so ridiculous!
In truth, when we think realistically of ourselves in terms of a tiny, immature, still-unrecognizable shape of a child that’s so far from what it will eventually become, still in the process of being formed– surrounded by the ever-present, all-encompassing, fully formed and perfect One who is at that moment completely surrounding us, giving life to us… well, it’s pretty humbling.
But if in all of this, you’re somehow thinking that I’m suggesting that God is a “Mother” instead of a “Father,” then you are still missing the point. Just as the relationship of a husband and wife is a testimony that points us to Christ and the Church, so also a baby being formed in the womb is a picture that points us to the breathtaking Kingdom of God, showing us the humility of who we are and the vastness and very great power of Who He is (1 John 3:9; 4:7; 5:1,4,18; John 3; 1 Cor.15:8; 1 Peter 2:2 etc.)
To try to measure the vastness of such a powerful God by the extremely limited standard of what we know only as the incomplete, immature, tiny, still-being-formed creatures that we are is as ludicrous as the growing fetus making the assumption that the mother is not legitimate unless she is the same size and form as himself.
Just think of this: where a baby is not even cognizant of the reality of its mother while in utero, his first conscious awareness of his mother’s presence once he is born comes solely in terms of himself at the center– of his own hungry wants and desires being satisfied. Like the baby discovering his mother upon his birth, God likewise does not remain “unknown” to us. He does reveal Himself to us when we are “born again!” Remember that time? Remember when, as a new babe in Christ, you were amazed by the reality of God, and yet thought of Him primarily in terms of what He could do for you– even as the baby only thinks in terms of his mom being his milk supply. As a baby eventually matures and learns to know his mother in terms of his relationship to her, we likewise mature out of a “Self”-centered theology of what God can do for us, into a “God”-centered theology driven by our passion for His glory to be shown.
Joni Eareckson Tada first captured my attention in this way when she wrote in her book, (“Heaven: Your Real Home”) that “earth is heaven’s womb.” She wrote of the stark changes the baby experiences when being forced to leave the dark, limited confines of the womb in order to enter the brightness, beauty, and limitless spaces of the world he is born into. She suggested that the same vast change from dark confinement into incomprehensible, indescribable beauty and brightness is what we will experience when we are “born” into heaven.
She also wrote of the baby in utero wondering (if it were possible to do so) over being in the world, totally surrounded by it, but yet not released into it– just as we, being presently in the “womb” of heaven, are also surrounded by heaven, but not yet released into it.
What an amazing and intensely powerful picture a baby in the womb is! Is it any wonder that the whole message of Christmas is wrapped up in a birth? Jesus, the only “form” of God (Phil. 2:6; John 14:8,9) humbled Himself incomprehensibly, went down into the dark confines of heaven’s womb, and became a man, born of a woman, living–incredibly– among us! This Divine act was truly amazing! “And we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Right now, I’m pretty overwhelmed with an intensely impacting picture of the amazing, vast, all-powerful, all-encompassing, always present, living, sustaining presence of such a Mighty God surrounding us, Who actually sent His Son to be born of a woman– to live right here among us in the “dark confines” of this womb called the world so we could somehow know Him– to suffer and die for our sakes. Resurrected, He has taken His rightful place on a throne– and all because of it, we have such great hope!
When this powerful reality hits home, the celebration of Christmas becomes something vastly exciting and incredibly amazing. “God with us.” We can’t see Him. But He is real. Oh, so real!
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