11 November 2015

Zillah: Image

Genesis 4:17-22

Mother of culture -
mother of violence.
My womb brings forth beauty -
my womb brings forth death.

I look at you, my children,
and I see your Father,
the image of your Creator,
in the beauty you create.
I see Him in your intelligence,
your creativity,
your imagination,
the goodness of your hearts -
image of God.

And yet
I look at you, my children,
and I see your father
by whom I conceived you,
in the violence you perpetuate.
I see him in your conflicts,
your enmities,
your anger,
the hatred in your hearts -
image of man.

What strange creatures we are,
uniting in ourselves
goodness and creativity
with violence and cruelty -
children of God
fallen into sin.

I look at you, my children,
full of joy and pride at the good you create.
I look at you, my children,
full of pain at the violence you perpetuate.
Can a mother forsake her child?
Can I cling to disappointment,
instead of praising your achievements?
Should I hold on to my pain
or forgive you again and again?

I look at you and pray
that the image of God may grow in you
and blind out the darkness, the anger and pain;
I pray that your goodness
will overcome your hate -
but until then, as your mother,
I will love you
and wait.


[7.-10. November 2015]

This one kind of speaks for both Adah and Zillah, mothers of Jabal, Jubal and Tubal-Cain from whom came animal-keeping (Jabal), musical instruments (Jubal) and metalwork (Tubal-Cain). Adah and Zillah were the wives of Lamech, a man who prided himself in his violence (see Adah's poem). Their children - in a sense the originators of culture - were descendants of Cain, the first murderer. That is where I see the connection between culture (actually a good thing) and violence. The creativity of Jabal, Jubal and Tubal-Cain mirrors the creativity of God - but they are also part of a violent family and a violent people that will be eradicated in the flood.

I considered this from Zillah's perspective as mother: she sees the good in her children, and yet she also sees the bad things that upset her. And yes, that small bit "Can a mother forsake her child?" is something God said (Isaiah 49:15) and it was my purpose to make the connection to God there. A mother loves her children and looks on their achievements with joy, even when what she sees is marred by their failings and shortcomings. I also believe that a good mother will want her children to change for the better, especially when she sees that they are harming themselves or each other with the way they live.

In that sense, a mother's love can help us understand God's grace: God loves us as we are (we are his children), he wants to accept and forgive us. But he also wants the best for us - and for all of us (siblings included). If we are harming our siblings (i.e. other people) he won't just shrug it away and accept it. I think God is very much like the mother who waits... like the father waiting for the prodigal son. He loves us and that includes that he wants us to change and stop harming each other and ourselves. But he does not force us to change.

Picture is of Tubal-Cain the metalworker, son of Zillah. His sister Naamah also has her own poem, here.

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