Feeding on God

Sharon Parenting, Spiritual Health 4 Comments

Tomorrow Isaac will be two weeks old (!!!) and this past Saturday we “took off the training wheels,” so to speak, when my parents went home and we were left alone with our son for the first time since his birth. So far, the transition into parenthood these last two weeks has been a really positive one! Sure, we wish we were getting a tad more sleep each night, but overall we are loving the adventure and our marriage has already been strengthened and blessed in the process.

Prior to his birth, one of the things I was dreading about having a newborn was the feeding schedule. In the months before Isaac was born, I had a fear of being physically tethered to him because he would need to nurse so often each day. Although I knew that pumping would allow me some freedom to get out of the house for errands and such, I also feared that he wouldn’t take a bottle.

Now that Isaac is here and I nurse him every 1 to 3 hours, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoy it. Sure, I had to adjust to the fact that I’m always “on call” in a sense, but I love being able to meet that need in him. Nursing instantly soothes him, in addition to granting me a constant opportunity for intimate connection with him.

As I have adjusted to this new aspect of my daily schedule, I have also been comforted and encouraged by something I read just before Isaac was born. Weeks ago I mentioned the book Creating with God by Sarah Jobe, and in it she highlights the spiritual parallels between pregnancy, breastfeeding, and abiding in Christ.

To understand this connection, it is helpful to remember that the early Christians were considered by some to be cannibals because of the Bible’s languages about Communion. Not only do Christians talk about “eating Christ’s body” and “drinking Christ’s blood” when we come to the Lord’s table, but Jesus also referred to himself as the “bread of life” (John 6:35).

Based on this language, it’s no wonder some non-Christians were a little confused! In this world, we have very few examples of eating in which the “eaten” is not consumed and destroyed. However, one example we DO have is pregnancy.

In pregnancy, and later breastfeeding, the mother’s body literally sustains the child. In fact, as Jobe pointed out, if a mother does not consume enough calories or nutrients for the two of them, the baby will take those essentials from the mother’s body. In some sort of real sense, the baby is feeding off of the mother’s body.

Now the analogy is not a perfect one. As just mentioned, a mother must continually replenish herself in order to support the baby. God, on the other hand, needs no replenishment. He is sufficient unto Himself. Even so, the connection between mother and child during pregnancy and nursing is still a lovely vision of the connection we ought to have with God. Not only is it a picture of great intimacy, but it also lends new insight into the concept of abiding in Christ.

In the same way that Isaac must continually return to me for sustenance over and over each day, we are to do the same with God. What’s more, when Isaac was in the womb his entire well-being depended on being connected to me. Our two lives were intertwined for 9 whole months as Isaac depended on me for food and growth.

That is what it means to abide in Christ.

Each day as I nurse Isaac and realize his utter dependence on me, I am reminded of my similar need for God.

Of course, having a baby has reminded of this divine dependency in other ways as well. Returning to all the fears that I mentioned above, some have been resolved since Isaac was born but others have cropped up as well. Many of my current fears now relate to protection. Just last week I made my dad and brother hang netting over an open stairwell in case anyone standing near the rail happened to trip and drop Isaac over the side. The netting is now one of the first things you see when you walk in our front door and it honestly is hideous, but at least now I know Isaac won’t fall 15 feet to his doom!

My dad, brother, and Ike all pretty much made fun of me for erecting that eye sore in the middle of our home, but that is how my brain is functioning right now. There is a lot of fear. Which means I must continually return to God for truth, comfort, and peace. In the same way that Isaac comes back to me again and again for nourishment and care, I find myself compelled to do the same thing if I don’t want to go bonkers with worry.

Well my little guy has started to make some hungry noises, and I can’t think of a better way to end this post than rushing off to feed him. He sure keeps me busy, but I love to take care of Him, just as I know God loves to care for and nourish us.

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Comments 4

  1. Anna

    It’s on a bit of a different note- but you might want to check out Carolyn Walker Bynum’s “Holy Fast, Holy Feast” about women and food in the medieval period. She’s got some interesting (more in the historical vein but still cool) stuff on medieval portraiture of Jesus that portrays him feeding communicants from the wound in his side…which is located suspiciously near the chest area. That last line should be read as humor- but it really IS interesting that the medieval church did have a tradition in which Jesus acts more as mother and provider of nourishment than our contemporary church is wont to emphasize because of different emphases and concerns related to gender.

  2. Post
    Author
    Sharon

    Anna, Sarah actually mentioned that in her book–the part about medieval writers drawing on nursing imagery. I had never heard that before and I love that! I think it would be rather scandalous in certain camps today, but maybe we should bring it back! 🙂

  3. Tim

    Sharon, neither of our kids took to a bottle and my wife nursed them for ages. Of the various things that sometimes got burdensome as a new mother, I never heard her include nursing in the list. I think this has a lot to do with how she’s wired, but can totally understand how others develop that tethered feeling (and how we had different stuff that bugged us but others probably thought was easy as pie). Who knows what you’ll be feeling in a few weeks, but it is awesome that you are enjoying your little one in so many ways!

    I also thought your insight on God’s sufficiency was golden. He gives abundantly and it never diminishes him one bit. That is so different from what we experience in this world. Yet another reason we can say that God is awesome!

    Tim

  4. Mae Lynn

    Great post Sharon. Even after nursing 2 children, I have never looked at the connection before. Thank you so much for the wonderful insight and I will cherish these thoughts as I nurse my son!

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