“She’s eating her baby!” my 5-year-old shrieked as we were watching an episode on Animal Planet. The narrator coolly explained that when threatened, the mothers in this species of the animal kingdom eat their young.
I comforted my daughter. “Don’t worry, Sweet Pea. I would never eat you. If I felt threatened then I would turn to Jesus instead of chewing on you. Even though your little toes look just so tasty . . .”
More shrieking ensued as I pretended to eat her toes.
You may have felt like a “mother bear” at times when protecting or defending your children, but your instinctive motherhood is different than that of a brute animal.
Richard Baxter described how God created the maternal instinct to the praise of his glory:
Women especially must expect so much suffering in a married life, that if God had not put into them a natural inclination to it, and so strong a love to their children, as maketh them patient under the most annoying troubles, the world would ere this have been at an end, through their refusal of so calamitous a life.
Their sickness in breeding, their pain in bringing forth, with the danger of their lives, the tedious trouble night and day; which they have with their children in their nursing and their childhood; besides their subjection to their husbands, and continual care of family affairs; being forced to consume their lives in a multitude of low and troublesome businesses: all this, and much more would have utterly deterred that sex from marriage, if nature itself had not inclined them to it.1
Above and beyond the animal kingdom in which there are numerous displays of “mother bear” traits, as humans we have a redemptive goal and purpose for our maternal instinct.
All of our instinct to suffer, to love, to exercise patience, to endure pain, and to work for the good of our children is a reflection of the image of God.
The image of God is most gloriously displayed in Jesus, who is the exact image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15).
Jesus’ “instinct” compelled him to set his face toward Jerusalem where he would allow himself to be crucified to redeem and sustain mothers whose hope is in him.
Jesus offers his power to mothers who would live in their mundane as suffering, loving, patient, enduring, hard-working daughters of the King.
Christ’s power is available to us as we have received Christ Jesus the Lord. We are to walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as we were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. We take care so that no one might take us captive by philosophy and empty deceit that is not according to Christ. Jesus is sufficient: “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority” (Colossians 2:9–10).
Jesus defies the jaws of death as mothers choose to nurture human life by God’s common grace.
Jesus is pushing back the gates of hell as mothers glory in God’s particular grace of the cross in their mothering endeavors.
From labor and birth or persevering in adoption paperwork and fundraising and all of the wearying troubles we experience — Jesus sustains mothers.
May the God who created the maternal instinct receive all praise and glory in Christ Jesus through mothers made alive together with him.
The Practical Works of the Rev. Richard Baxter (London: Paternoster, 1830), 4:18. ↩