This month I found myself reflecting on the children’s book, “Are You My Mother?” by P.D. Eastman.
“Are You My Mother?” is as vivid in my childhood memories as Dr. Seuss, McGuffey’s Eclectic Readers, and my mother’s illustrated bible. The story “Are You My Mother?” made me both sad and curious for the little bird on an adventure to find his mother. He asks many creatures that are nothing like him if they are his mother. He searches desperately for her until he finds himself back in the nest. His mother returns and instantly he recognizes her.
The question “Are you Mother?” was rolling around in my head because it reminded me of the questions I ask myself in relationships with others… Do you want me? Do you really want to be my friend? Do you want me to belong with you? What vulnerable questions those are! If we ask the wrong person, they can present incredibly damaging answers and bring us to egregious conclusions about our own value and identity. What if the cat or the cow had told the bird that they were his mother? How would that story have unfolded?
I know it may seem silly to consider a cat or a cow or a hen or a dog telling a bird that they are their mother. But humor me and consider that for just a moment. This bird was so lost as to who he belonged to he was asking completely foreign strangers if they were intimate to him… he was asking them if they were his mother, asking if they had given him, and could offer him, life. I ask again, what if they had offered this bird a different identity? What if he began to think himself a cat or cow or hen or dog?
I think we can learn from this tiny bird. If we walk around constantly asking others if they truly know us, we will hear a hundred different answers. Some of these people may know us well, many do not truly know us at all. To expect others to offer us life may leave us disappointed; even the best of friends cannot give us all the intimate answers we are longing for. Many of us end our journey looking for companionship and love disillusioned and questioning our worth.
As I’ve grown closer to Christ and Life inside me, I have experienced deeper wholeness and goodness in my relationships; along with that I also feel pain and betrayal more acutely. There is a new fear that’s grown in me. This fear of being hurt, of being betrayed, of placing my faith in the wrong person.
While I was able to push those feelings of pain to the side before, now they seem to cut like a knife. I am more alive to my heart. While that is a good thing, fear of rejection should not dictate how I choose to love. I am learning how to best care for the fragility and incredible value of my heart. I’m learning through an adventure of my own that my identity, my value, can only be found in my Father… in Jesus Christ.
If I look to friendships or boyfriends or the approval of colleagues to establish my value they will always fall short, despite their best intentions.
I belong to my Father and Father alone. Only He can guide me to Life. While my fear of being hurt may be well founded in some cases, Christ does not call me to a life that keeps my heart in a jar. My earnest and most cherished friendships return me to the nest. They remind me who my Father is and how incredibly loved and whole I am made in Him.
At the end of “Are You My Mother?” Mother bird asks our little adventuring birdie if he knows who she is. He tells her who and what she is not. And then our little wanderer concludes, “You are a bird, and you are my mother.”
I long for that to be my relationship with Jesus. To be able to tell the Lord when I see Him, “You are God, and you are my Father,” just as he declares to me, “You are made whole, you are My child.”
That moment at the end of the book reminds me of what the beginning of friendship feels like. Friendships happen when we say, “Whoa, you’re a bird too!!!” The questions–Do you want me? Do you really want to be my friend? Do you want me to belong with you?–have already been answered in a resounding yes by Jesus. To take that pressure and expectation off of others allows them the freedom to be who God created them to be….and we can appreciate them for the life, goodness, and encouragement they offer us.
Anna Hull lives in San Antonio, TX. A graduate of Schreiner University with a B.A. in Religion & Political Science, Anna is passionate about finding Jesus in every day life. She enjoys unexpected adventure, making genuine connections with others, and finding beauty in chaos.