I want to think about my sister's actions as a loving mother. She did everything she could to protect her child. She held tightly onto him even when the kidnapper got right in her face and even when she was knocked over. She called out for help and for those nearby to call the authorities. You see, she couldn't make the call herself, because her arms were wrapped around the boy she loves. There was no way she was letting go of him.
That's the way mothers are made. They care for their children even at great personal loss or risk. Though this fact makes my sister and her son no less a family, the truth is that she adopted this little boy when he was almost a year old. I find that significant because of this aspect: she did not carry this boy in her body, she did not place her life on the line to bring him into the world, she did not nurse him, and she did not have the care of him during his most vulnerable months. Without those components, she still displays the true love of a mother.
This love seems to be an inseparable bond, and I can only imagine how that fierce love would be reinforced by the bonding aspects that my sister was not able to experience during those early months of her son's life. True mothers cannot abandon their children or stand callously by while danger comes to their offspring. Interesting, another woman on the scene (a mother also, I suspect) threatened the perpetrator with her umbrella.
It would seem that nothing could break this bond between a mother and her child - that this love would be insurmountable. Sadly, if we listen to the news long enough we find this is not always the case. Shockingly, there are too many cases where a mother leaves her child to live in squalor and filth while she pursues her own pleasures or remains absorbed with some man (or men) who are not her children's father. There are mothers who leave their children under a bridge to die or who kill them before they are even born. A recent story in my area involves a woman who for days was unaware that her son had starved to death; she lived in the same house, but didn't care for the child at all and didn't see him for months at a time.
These stories are sickening and repulsive. We can't imagine how they could possibly happen. In fact, the Bible asks this question: "Can a woman forget her nursing child, and have no compassion on the son of her womb?" (Isaiah 49:15a). We want to think the answer is a resounding "No," but, as the above stories illustrate, there are cases in which a mother actually forgets, ignores, and turns away from her own child.
The power of the Bible's illustration comes from the extreme rarity of such abandonment. There is probably no stronger bond on earth than that of a mother for her child, especially an infant. When asked if a mother could forget her little one, we immediately want to answer, "Of course not." Only when we stop to consider do we have to admit, "Well, I suppose it could happen, but those are really isolated cases."
Realizing how abnormally unusual - in fact, almost impossible - it would be for a mother to forget her child, let us consider the rest of the verse. "Even these [mothers] may forget, but I will not forget you" (Isaiah 49:15b). If we consider the mother/child love that seems unsurpassable, there is a love that is even greater. A mother's love will on rare occasions fail, but God's love will never fail. He will always remember His children.
Love sometimes puts up with a lot. With any child there are the messy diapers, the puking, the loads of laundry, the temper tantrums, the messy tables and floors, the potty training, and so on. With some children the challenges can be even greater. There can be un-chosen challenges like physical or mental impairments, and there can be chosen challenges like rebellion or involvement in a bad crowd or dangerous habit.
A mother continues to love in spite of those challenges. She may be saddened by them, overwhelmed by them, or wearied because of them, but she still loves her child. I certainly hope this never happens, but if my nephew were to become involved in some of those bad choices, my sister would still love him. If he were to defiantly leave her in years to come but then return, she would willingly receive him.
God is like that, too, only more so. Remember that a mother's love can fail, but God's never does. God puts up with a lot - from the common and standard shortcomings of mankind to the outright rebellion, dangerous habits, and wrong choices. He is not happy that His children do those things, but He continues to love them and is always ready to forgive and receive them. In the context of Isaiah 49, the people believed God had forgotten them, but He assures them, "Oh, no. That is impossible. Your names are written permanently on my hands. You belong to me forever, and I will never forget you."
"The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, 'I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.'" Jeremiah 31:3 (NASB)