Wednesday, December 6, 2017


Finding our spiritual family

We were like infants among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves.

Growing up, I read and re-read the book Are You My Mother? Something about the newly born bird searching for its mother captured my imagination. The bird comes out of its shell while Mom is out getting food. Confused, the bird goes around asking various animals and things the same question, Are you my mother?

The bird asks a hen and a dog and a cow but they are not his (or her?) mother.  The bird sees a car and a plane and calls out the question. Finally he hops onto the teeth of a digger and is terrified with the shovel starts taking him up into the air. The digger drops the tiny bird back into the nest where he finally finds his mother and snuggles in with her.

In this part of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, he highlights the gentle, familial love he has for the people of that church. He uses family images to highlight intimacy they have. He calls them brothers and sisters; he confesses his vulnerability by calling himself an infant among them. Mixing his metaphors he refers himself as a wet nurse caring for children as well as a father urging his children to lead good lives.

Throughout the Epistles Paul refers to himself and the Apostles as lactating women offering spiritual milk, fatherly guides and loving siblings to emphasize that in Christ we are one family. This  doesn’t mean that the families don't have their share of dysfunction. Paul’s letters to different communities show us that each Christian community has it’s own idiosyncrasies and vices. 

Like the little bird, sometimes it takes a while to find our true spiritual home. We may visit different communities and wonder how we might fit. We ask ourselves: Are these the people with whom I can be all that I am? Can I be the vulnerable child, the gentle mother, the guiding father with these people?

Just like Paul, we are all complex people who sometimes act like children or mothers or fathers or something in between depending on the day.

It is my hope that each person can find a community of people like Paul and the Thessalonians. People who long to see each other. People who are eager to spend time together. People who we can call our glory and joy. People about whom we will boast when Jesus comes. People with whom we share not just the gospel, but our very, varied selves.

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