What Happens When God Can be Mother Too?

The Weight of Baby Bird

I saw him on the trampoline, this tiny human-like creature, his naked wings like flailing arms. He rested as though he had given up, and then he would move his bottom up into the air, or open his beak wide to be fed. His little feathery head spoke of his absent parents. Where were they?

I asked Joel, “Do you think we can help the baby bird?”

I wasn’t satisfied with his answer. It’s not that I, as woman or mother, am perfect in my connection to life. It’s more my set of experiences.

When Marshall was little, there was a long-haired cat here who must have lived his life indoors in a house that was rented on our property before we bought it. We’d torn the house down to build a new one, but the cat remained. We fed it cheap cat food and called it “OC” for Outside Cat.

I used to say that having a baby made me suddenly piercingly tender about every evil in the world, especially toward children. But it also made me self-protective. I had enough to manage, on 4 hours sleep, without adding another cat into the mix.

Little OC lived under the side porch and often mewed to get through our door. She’d have been beautiful, but her long hair was matted. I’ve always had a thing about petting animals with long hair. What could lurk beneath those layers?

One day our truly tender-hearted, childless 20-something tenants asked to adopt OC. For one year, OC lived the good life again. They cut out her mats, took her to the vet, gave her the best food, toys, a lot of attention, a warm bed and warm humans.

Then she wasted away from kidney disease and had to be put down. I sent our neighbors a sympathy card and felt remorseful. OC had deserved better, far sooner. Even a trip to the shelter might’ve landed her a better life.

What I learned was that I was arrogant about human worth compared to animal worth. I thought I could decide that my dislikes (that fur) and needs (to be a one-cat family) should matter more than a mere animal.

This began the era of compassion toward animals in the Harrison household. Purlina, a stray pregnant stripy cat, must have sensed that the political climate had changed. She took residence in our back yard. Even Joey, our feisty flame point Burmese cat, let her move in. We only really noticed her after she gave birth to 3 kittens in Marshall’s play house on the porch. She got busy soon after, and got pregnant  again, even while nursing her first 3.

She had 5 cats on the couch in the summer morning sun, 3 months after the first litter.

We kept them all. They now live in our little back yard cat-zoo that we layered with straw. That’s crazy, I’ll grant you, a kind of warped penance for keeping OC on the porch for 3 years.

But it did set the stage for seeing life and valuing it.

This tiny bird might be saved, and thanks to the Internet, I had somewhere to turn when Joel said, “I don’t think there is any way to help it. I’ll throw it away.”

Instead, I asked Cara, our daughter-in-law, to help find a little nesting container. We layered it with grass and she picked up the 4 cm long bird and plopped it down onto its new bed. Joel got out the ladder, climbed up with the bird and a staple gun and attached the container to the side of our Catalpa tree. The mother bird just might find it and take it home.

Meanwhile, Marshall lamented the cruelty of nature, then the hatefulness of humans. He didn’t know where to place his rage and fear, about a tiny baby bird without its mama.

I thought of the old hymn, “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” I thumbed through that longish sermon of Jesus’ in Matthew 5 (aka The Sermon on the Mount) but didn’t find that bit about God seeing the sparrow that falls from the tree. I’d thought I’d read it to Marshall. (It’s found in Matt. 10:29).

Is it just as well? Oh, how we want Mother God not to just be a silent observer, but to rescue.

But sometimes, often perhaps, we don’t see that the Mama God, the “I am” who serves, is right here in us, right now.

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