mother with child, art by Isabel Chenot
From Genesis to Revelation, one of the archetypes that broods over scripture
is the woman with her child. She towers over our sacred consciousness,
cradling life—in the figure of Eve, “the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20);
of Sarah, mother of promise, full of laughter; of Mary “full of grace;” of the
woman in Revelation 12 with the moon under her feet, who carries her child
into the wilderness pursued by the dragon, who is helped by the earth.
History plays out from the first murder in a welter of lust, lies, oppression,
disaster, wars. Nations divide and strengthen, butcher and enslave and totter
to dust. And over it all is a woman humming and rocking her child.
What is she singing? We pay so much attention to the current swell and tumble,
the towering and slipping thrones. But what if the lift and lull of her voice, stilling
her child, is more significant?
What if she is singing, over the clash of confused powers, to us?
“Because the struggle for us is not against blood and flesh, but
against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world-powers
of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil…” (Ephesians 6:12)
The real war is not “out there,” but within each one of us. The hardest struggle
is our struggle of spirit.
In my re-readings of the epistles this year, I have been underlining phrases
about living as “children,” “beloved children,” “children of light.” In Philippians
2:15, becoming more childlike is how we send up a flare in a dark world:
“Become blameless and innocent children of God, without blemish,
amidst a crooked and perverse generation among whom you are
shining as lights in the world.”
Ukraine, Yemen, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Armenia, Syria, Sudan, Myanmar.
Wherever there are wars (and there are many more wars than these in our
world as you read this), children are not exempt from suffering. We know too
well that, in our struggle against spiritual darkness, even children must fight.
What I have been apprehending is that we are being called, by that timeless,
ineffable hum above the throes of history, to fight like children. With innocence.
With given smallness. With wonder, and gentleness, and trust. With hope and
forgiveness. With stories, like children do, and songs.
It's contrary to my ideas of winning. But this is what the woman rocking her child
means: eternal light came to win the world by becoming a child.
“We love little children. They draw out of us the best that is in us. This is
parallel to the mystery of God coming to us as a child. We are so defenseless
before him in terms of the aspirations of the human heart.” (Edward Farrell)
We are so defenseless before him. Captivated. Disarmed. The given smallness
of God dethrones our inner darkness. And we are told that the songs of little ones
are stronger than God's enemies.
“Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength,
Because of Your enemies,
That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.”
My thoughts about this have been sweetened and deepened by those of
my pen-friends. One shared a lullaby in which I could hear the echo of that
ineffable song: "Lullaby in a mad world" by Kilby Austin. Another friend, Carrie L.,
shared this observation:
“I was very tickled in Ephesians this morning by how it seems like
‘singing and making melody with your heart’ comes out as a direct
development on the idea of ‘how to make the best use of time during
evil days.’ . . . It is like he is saying, ‘Don’t lie around idling and drinking!
Can’t you see that there is a war going on? Get up and help! There is
important SINGING to do!’”
Isabel Chenot’s work has appeared before in Spirit Fire Review, as well as in
Indiana Voice Journal, Assisi, Avocet, and Blue Unicorn, among other journals.
For a preview of West of Moonlight, East of Dawn, her retelling of an old fairy tale,
visit westofmoonlight.art. And her book The Joseph Tree (published in January,