Every night I would pull the bed covers over my shoulders, take a deep breath, and imagine God’s wings about me—holding me close—protecting me with soft, downy feathers. It’s how I got through those tough times.
In the Old Testament there are nearly as many images of God with wings as references to God as father … crazy, no?
But good, yes.
Because God is beyond words … beyond description … beyond our abilities to fathom.
Which is why there are so many, many forms of imagery to describe the glory and essence of God— rocks, chickens, mothers, clothing, light, bread!
It was during those hard times my Spiritual Director helped me to understand that God is always the initiator. It is God who comes to us … who woos us. She continued to teach me that as I slowly read a passage of Scripture, if a word or phrase stands out to me, I can pause and trust it is a word from God for me that day. I can allow that word to form, shape, and minister to me.
Simply put, I stop. I pause. And I become curious.
Then I ask God, “What is it you want me know about this?” “What do you want me to understand?” “What are you saying to me?”
They bring feelings of tenderness, comfort, and safety.
They help me get a clearer picture of who God is and how God wants to be for me.
Any Scriptural image of God we are drawn to is a gift from God!
Remember, God is the initiator. Which means somehow that particular image is who God wants to be for you at that time! So, delight in the gift. Delight in the fact that the God of the universe is loving you—you, individually. Then dwell on the image. Stay with it. Ask yourself, “What is it about that particular image that draws me right now?”
This is our God. Covering. Hiding. Sheltering. Protecting.
Loving-kindness. Softness. Gentleness. Self-giving care.
These winged passages throughout the Bible describe God with motherly attributes—a shocking thing in ancient Israel. A shocking thing for many people even today.
It is the mother bird who does the sheltering. Rarely does a male bird take up the nest. The vast majority of protectors are female. It’s the common thing for a mother bird to do the hiding—the covering—the sheltering under her wings.
She clucks and her chicks know her voice from others … she leads them to food and water … she gathers them to protect them from harm. Sounds like the Good Shepherd, doesn’t it?!
This image—this winged-God—is soft. And safe. And warm.
And the fun part is we’re the baby chicks. Snuggled against her soft down. Nestled near her breast. Near her heart. Protected. Loved. Pulled-in close.
It’s a delightful picture of Divine love.
So, when you read that Jesus desired to be “…as a hen protecting her chicks beneath her wings…” don’t be surprised. We have a long tradition of wings with our God.
Rather, let it be for you a formative encounter with our indescribable God.
Let it burst open your God-box.
As you ponder the numerous images for God, I pray for you openness. I wish for you that one of these seldom-used metaphors will touch you in deep places … love you in startling ways … and draw you to greater intimacy with God.
And … the next time you are lying awake at night … you might try imagining the soft, warm feathers of God holding you.
Join me and spread the word …
As I was researching this topic, I learned the majority of birds found in the Middle East are familiar to us in North America, like the Canadian Goose, Robin, Quail, Dove, Wren, Gull, Finch, Pheasant, Pelican, Eagle, Owl, Kingfisher, Swift, Lark, Starling, Mallard, Oriole, etc. While there are some unique birds in that area, it was fun to think of how many of the birds I was familiar with, Jesus saw too. In addition, the Holy Land is somewhat of a crossroads for birds with Asian, African, and European birds crossing paths, which means not only are there Mallard ducks, but Flamingos as well. Ostriches and sparrows. Cuckoo birds and Woodpeckers. All hanging out together. Fun!
Wings of God References: Psalm 91:4; Deut. 32:11; Psalm 17:8; Psalm 36:7; Psalm 57:1; Psalm 61:4; Psalm 63:7; Ruth 2:12; Mal. 4:2; Luke 13:34.
She clucks and her chicks…: Zach Lazzari, “Characteristics of Mother Hen”. Retrieved 2/6/20 from: https://www.cuteness.com/article/characteristics-mother-hen
As I was researching this topic…: Garth Cifford, “Birds of Middle East” (World Birds: Sept. 19, 2019), Retrieved 2/5/20 from: https://www.worldbirds.org