Our mums had an incredible gift for turning loss to gain; making the castoff reusable; turning the mundane into an adventure; transforming sadness into joy.
From Sad to Glad
This is Grandma Margaret. She was the first person in England to receive the vaccination to fight the Coronavirus. That one injection is making a great difference to so many people. Even though you may not have had yours, it’s very difficult not to be giving a sigh of relief that the darkness is breaking, winter is passing into spring, and sadness is tentatively giving way to gladness. The writer of the Song of Songs puts it this way:
“My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land; The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away” (Song 1.10-13 KJV)
Turning the Tide of Sadness
One of our readings in Lent was the story of Jochebed, Moses’ mum, hiding her baby boy. This was a woman with that gift of transforming loss to gain. In that traumatic time when the male Hebrew babies were being taken away, she has the nous to conceal her boy, then to build a waterproof, papyrus ark for him, to set Miriam her daughter to watch over the child, and finally, the delight that Moses was adopted by an Egyptian princess; and asking for herself, Jochebed, to become the wetnurse.
The deadly waters of the Nile became, for her, a place where her baby could be floated to safety. Jochebed had injected a situation of despair with great Jewish optimism. Hers was a God who could bring blessing from curse.
When Waste is made Precious
Our own mums were blessed with that same precious gift. I can remember, as a child, demanding a kite off mum. She took an old transparent bag, tied a piece of string at some strategic place and gave it to me. I remember spending hours flying that wrapper above the street lamps and the pitched rooves of Pendleton.
When eiderdowns were supplanted by duvets (or continental quilts as we called them) mum took the downy feathers out of the old, and, stitching pockets into some sheets, hung the them on a washing line, and stuffed the pockets with the down. And who can’t remember lying on a bed cover and rediscovering your life history through the old pieces of clothes which mum had quilted into it!
The Story of Jochebed or the Story of a Loving God?
The Psalmist, King David, writes of the LORD, “You spread a table for me in the presence of my enemies” (Psalm 23) In another place he writes of God, “You have turned my mourning into dancing for me” (Psalm 30) Can God really take a situation of loss and waste and inject it with new life? Can He really set up a place of rest and solace in a time when my life seems to be under attack?
When Moses wrote his mother Jochebed’s story in the Torah (Exodus 2.1ff) it was for the migrant Hebrews as they were pursued by the Egyptians; as they began a life as desert dwellers; as the escaped slaves began to think of food and water; as they wondered how a raggle-taggle band of 750,000 men, women and children could possibly locate and settle a land of promise. Moses message is simple – what you see in the shrewdness, creativity and resolve of my mum, you will now see in the living God. He will not let you down. Ours is a God who can bring gain out of loss, and joy out of tragedy.