Editor’s Note: This post was written by Alyssa Johnson, one of this semester’s Boundless interns.
When I was little, my siblings and I were obsessed with a book called Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman. It was about a little bird who hatched out of his egg while his mother was away from the nest. Since he had never seen his mother, he didn’t know who he was supposed to be looking for, but he knew he would rather look for her than be alone.
The little guy went around to all the other animals he could find, asking them, “Are you my mother?” It was comically clear to us as children that the bird was not related to the kitten, the cow, or the other animals in question, but this newborn was lost as to how to identify his mama. He gets further and further off track as the story progresses, asking a car, boat, and plane if they could be his mother —until before long he climbs onto the arm of a power shovel. Danger is imminent as the machine starts to move and the baby bird finally lets out the scream he has been suppressing for the duration of the book — “I want my mother!”
Fortunately for my tender child psyche, the bird does not get ground up in the gears of the machine, but instead is dropped off into his nest as his mother returns. When I look back on this story of parental longing, I realize how reflective it is of my heart for my Heavenly Father.
I have been blessed with an incredibly godly father. I respect and seek out his opinion, I well up at every father-daughter song about little girls wanting to marry daddy, and I model much of my life after his. But, despite his seemingly limitless love, his humanity cannot communicate to me the love of the Heavenly Father, and I have found myself struggling with the idea of that Perfect Dad more and more as I become older.
I’ve never seen my Heavenly Father. As I read through the Scriptures for some sort of picture of who my Father is, I don’t always know what I am looking for because I can’t imagine the fullness of who He is. I know I would rather stumble through the process of trying to discover Him than walk through this life alone, but it can be so frustrating to ask about each characteristic I see of Him, “Are YOU part of my Father?! Is justice a part of my Father? Is holiness? Is goodness? Are any of these things truly part of my Dad?”
For a girl who has continually had a gracious earthly father in my life, I have struggled with the idea of a flawless Heavenly Father an awful lot. I just can’t imagine anyone having that kind of love for me. A Father who loves to give good gifts? Surely not to someone as undeserving as me. A Father who dances over me with delight for His creation and sings over me when I am startled and overwhelmed by life? Surely not for someone as chaotic and sinful as me.
And yet, in Psalm 91, I am given a picture of that kind of loving Dad—a Dad who is obsessed with love for me. He promises rest and refuge in His shadow, safety from hidden traps, a shield of faithfulness, and angels who will guard me in all my ways. (I would encourage you to read this chapter in The Message. In my opinion it gives the best structure for reading the psalm as a letter of His great love for us.) The psalm ends with these promises:
‘Because he loves me,’ says the LORD, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.’
When I read Are You My Mother? as a child, I wished that the animals in the story would have a little more compassion on the baby bird. I wished they would give him some kind of hint, such as, “I’m not your mother…your mother has feathers.” “I’m not your mother…your mother has a beak.” I thought it would have been so helpful for the frightened bird if he had been given some sense of what to look for, something like we have in Psalm 91. I’m looking for the heart of a Father who will rescue me. A Father who will protect, answer, comfort, deliver, honor and satisfy me. That’s the Father I find in the Scriptures. That’s the Father I have to let into my heart.
Hopefully I don’t stray further and further from the truth each time I ask the question, “Are you my Father?”, but rather come to a deeper understanding of who He is and what His heart looks like. And when I am unable to comprehend who He says He is in the Scriptures, I’ll hopefully be honest enough to stand in front of the Lord and scream, “I want my Father!” Thankfully, He has promised to be good enough to show up in those times (Jeremiah 29:13).