Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Great Are the Words of Isaiah

I love Isaiah. He speaks to something deep within me that reaches into every fiber of my being. One reason I learn so much from him is that he speaks in metaphors and symbols that sink deep into my heart and then open and expand like a dry sponge submerged in water. What I mean by that is that initially I learn something wonderful from his writings, but as I ponder what I have learned it unfolds more meaning and continues to teach me.

One of those passages that has “fueled” my life is Isaiah 49:15-16. It is a passage I heard often growing up and liked. It goes like this, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.”

I remember discussing this verse in a classroom setting when I was younger and the teacher explaining that this first verse had reference to a woman’s motherly instincts. He explained that mother’s have strong natural feelings for their children and that often they give their own lives to protect a child. He then compared those motherly instincts to the love the Lord has for us. While I liked the passage, I remember thinking that not all mothers have those feelings and wondered how that could be explained. There are numerous reports of women who have babies and abandon them or even worse they kill their own infants.

A few years later, I had my first child and became a nursing mother. On the first night that she slept through the night, I awakened shortly after what had been her feeding time with horrible pain throbbing through me. As I tossed and turned waiting for her to wake and relieve the pressure, I thought of Isaiah’s words and realized how inadequate my instructor’s explanation had been. He had never nursed a child and didn’t know that the key word in the verse is “sucking.” Isaiah spoke of a nursing child, and it is absolutely impossible for a nursing mother to forget her child. The pain is too intense. It can’t happen. And yet the Lord says, “Maybe a nursing mother could forget, but I can’t.” And then He goes on to reference the Atonement as he explains that He has graven us in His hands.

Think about the many times in a day you look at your hands. (Better still make a small circle on each of your hands and for just one day every time you glance at that circle think about the Atonement.) That is what the Savior is telling us. He can’t forget us because we are constantly before Him. Not only that, our “walls” or the obstacles we daily face are also constantly before Him. It is not that He won’t forget us. He can’t.

When I am tempted to think I am just an insignificant drop in the sea of humanity and that God couldn’t possibly be thinking about me, I recite Isaiah 49:15-16 and remember that I am graven in His hands. He knows me.

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