Yesterday we conlcuded our explorations of the parable of the Prodigal Son, from th eperspective of the mother, the silent witness. Bringing the story into 'conversation' with the account of Moses' birth and adoption, and the sister who watched, waited and then spoke out, we thought about the idea of a 'time to keep silent and a time to speak', the challenges of 'breaking silence' on abuse and of the apparent/effective collusion of 'keeping silent'. No answers, lots of questions. And images of mother hens and mother eagles along the way!
So here is the mother's story...
There’s a sight I thought I’d never see again – the three of them under the one roof. I’m not too sure how to feel about it really, there’s an atmosphere you could cut with a knife! My elder son silently fuming as he watches his father embrace his brother. My younger son weeping with shame and embarrassment under the gaze of his father. My husband overwhelmed by joy at the return of his youngest and seemingly oblivious to his elder son’s anger. I stand here and watch, not knowing what to think, or what to say, so I say nothing.
As I stand here, in the shadows, feeling the tension, watching, listening, I realise that all I want to do is to make everything right again. All I want is for us to be a happy family, just I had assumed we were for so long. I wish my boys were children, so that I could sweep them up in my arms and hugs them to me. I wish my husband would rest his head on my shoulder and let me hold him in my arms. I wish, like a mother hen, I could gather them all under my wings and protect them.
Protect them – but from what? And why? I can’t just wrap them in my love and everything will magically be right, there are hurts to heal, relationships to mend, and – hard though it is – truths to be told. Only then is reconciliation possible, forgiveness achievable. If I love them, really love them, then I must find my voice, must speak the truths they need to hear, however unpalatable that may be… and then I must mother them afresh, nurturing new behaviours, new attitudes, new understandings.
Standing back and watching – it has given me perspectives that perhaps they cannot see. This waiting, watching time, it hasn’t been wasted time. But it needs to be productive time.
I remember the old story of Moses and the sister who waited and watched over him as he lay in his floating cradle. How terrified she must have been when the Egyptian princess ordered him to be brought out of the water. I wonder what thoughts went through her head as she weighed the consequences of speaking out or staying silent.
But if she hadn’t found her voice, if she hadn’t acted, the story would have ended very differently.
To be like the hen, protecting my brood is good. But I need also to learn from the mother eagle whose love is tough and realistic, as she teaches her chicks the essential skills of flight. She watches, she waits, and when the time is right she nudges her precious children over the edge into the air, still watching, still waiting and then, if they fail to fly, swooping down to catch them on her back and bring them safely back to the nest.
Somewhere between these two, the hen protecting her chicks from predators and the eagle teaching hers to fly, is the balance I need to find. But it needs a first step, a first word.
I take my courage in both hands, step forward into the picture and call their names…