"In the heart of God,
calm and quiet is my soul,
like a little child,
resting in its mother's arms"
In years past when we’ve sung this, I’ve relished the thought of my soul being calm and quiet, tucked up in the heart of God. But this time as I sang it, I held my own baby, and marveled with humble gratitude at his contentedness within my arms. A healthy parent works to be a safe refuge, a dependable comfort, a reassurance. And I get the opportunity to try to be that for my son. On most days, so far, it seems like he finds that calm, that refuge, that comfort, that reassurance in me.
As a spiritual director, I’m fascinated by people’s God image. That is, by how a person pictures/imagines/perceives God, and where that image comes from. Do they view God as exacting? Distant? Tender? Forgiving? Humorless? Unpredictable? Comforting? Research shows that our earliest conceptions of God typically link with how we experience our primary caregivers when we’re young. Chances are, the way we perceive God reflexively (which may be different from what we’d actually tell others we believe about God) aligns with how we view or viewed one or more of those caregivers. Of course, this isn’t always the case. But I’ve seen it hold up many times.
As I rocked my baby to the beat of the song, I pondered: Could it be that even though he hasn’t been able to understand my words when I’ve told him about God, my son will be able to know—that in fact, he already knows—a little of who God is because of me? I am in awe of that possibility, and pray I may help his soul know love and safety and quiet in God.
And at the same time I pray that none of my shortcomings obscure his sense of who God is. That God is always bigger than me to him. That God will be a safe refuge, a dependable comfort, and a reassurance for him when I am not.
I believe all of us have an opportunity to show a little of who God is to others, whether or not we are parents. In fact, we can help to expand or counterbalance the limited or flawed perceptions of God others might be carrying since their childhoods. We might do this for our friends, our spouses, our parents, our coworkers, and even the people we cross paths with at the grocery store. How have people done that for you? How might you do that for the people you encounter today?
Continue the conversation in the comments, below!
(Song by Stephen Iverson)
(Photo by Anne Fischer Photography)
Sierra Neiman Westbrook
Sierra Neiman Westbrook, MDiv, spent seven years working in the Christian publishing field before beginning eight years of teaching at George Fox University (writing, theology, and spiritual formation) and Portland Seminary (spiritual formation). A graduate of Portland Seminary, Sierra holds a Master of Divinity degree and a certificate in Spiritual Formation & Discipleship. She is also certified through Portland Seminary as a spiritual director. Sierra brings to her work a curiosity about how theology of lament, narrative pastoral care, and explorations of one's God image can enrich a person’s relationship with God. She also enjoys hiking, watching ballet performances, baking, writing, drinking lots of tea, and spending lots of time with her husband, Justin, and their young son. Sierra is the Eden Spiritual Care founding director, and also serves as an Eden Spiritual Care board member, spiritual director, and class instructor.