God’s Presence is Closer Than You Thought
Note: This article was originally published in 2010.
With four kids, ages seven and under, my husband and I have been exhausted for basically seven years straight. We’ve found that the best way to manage our sleep deprivation is by taking shifts and fortunately, the division of labor comes naturally in our house.
When darkness falls on nights that he has nothing in particular to do, the moment my husband stops moving – and this can literally be while he’s standing – the man will fall asleep. If left alone – and I must confess, I have a hard time leaving him alone if it’s before, say, 9pm – he will fall deeper and deeper asleep until he reaches a land that’s far, far away.
In other words, I take the night shift. This works out well, since the sound of a door opening or a kid coughing is enough to stir me. My nighttime duties these days involve nursing a newborn every couple hours, but also sometimes include rocking a toddler back to sleep, getting medicine for a sick five-year-old, and comforting a seven-year-old with a bad dream.
By the time morning comes, I dread wakefulness, so my dear husband takes over. The morning shift can start as early as 5AM at times. Nowadays it often begins something like this: “Daddy, Mommy, I need yaw help…Mommy, Daddy, I’m stuck.” My husband will then stumble down the hall and open our two-year-old son’s door at which point he’ll declare, “I wanna watch Dora.”
During the periods that I’m nursing a baby, my morning sleep is almost always pierced by the distant sound of crying. At that point, I’ll call out to my husband to let him know that I’m awake and that he can bring me the baby.
Many times when this happens the baby is cold to the touch, and there’s nothing I love more than taking my cold, crying baby under my covers and enveloping him in the warmth and the comfort that is his mommy.
While nursing him in bed like this the other day, I started thinking about God’s feminine traits. In Judaism, we believe that God is gender-neutral, but has attributes that we can relate to from both genders.
We talk about God as a King when we try to conjure up images of power and majesty in our relationship with Him. But God has a feminine side as well which we refer to as the Shechinah. The Shechinah is the mother-like presence of God that is said to dwell upon us.
The wording used in conjunction with the Shechinah is usually resting “upon us” or being “spread over us,” which I used to picture as having God’s presence be above us like a ceiling. And to tell you the truth, such imagery has always been a bit disappointing to me.
Don’t get me wrong, to merit having God’s presence as close as my ceiling would be a huge deal, but having God’s presence rest only above me seems to lack the nuturing aspect that I assumed would come along with the maternal side of God.
When I brought my baby into bed the other day, though, I realized that my blankets were “spread over” him and “rested upon” him. Suddenly, my ceiling imagery came crashing down and turned into a warm, enveloping blanket.
The next time we are crying out from one of life’s challenges, may we feel God’s comfort and embrace, like a baby snuggling up close to his mother. And the next time a baby snuggles up close to his mother, may that baby let his mother sleep.
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