Six months after adopting an adorable pup, we added a kitten to our family, hoping they would bond. Our hearts melted when they curled up together to sleep. Alas, six months later, the pup was killed on the road – and we mourned her deeply. Our young cat, Gemma, was clearly grieving too. Hence, we soon brought another pup home, hoping that, again, the two would become friends. Gemma cautiously approached the new pup, sniffed her, and drew back in horror! This one smelt awful! This behaviour continued until day three, when Gemma slapped a firm paw on Minka and licked her clean. Their relationship blossomed immediately. Soon after, her mothering instincts became even more pronounced. Minka would regularly plop down five wide steps from landing to backyard, to discover she couldn’t get back up. Seeing Minka’s plight one day, Gemma responded. With her extended arm outstretched behind Minka’s back, she guided the hapless pup up the steps! What an intrinsically selfless mothering instinct this young cat possessed.
Examples abound of inter-species, parent-like relationships. We wonder at them, intrigued by the innate love displayed. They remind me of some biblical images of God – often described as masculine – which show this maternal side.
Jesus said, ‘…how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings’ (Matthew 23:7 NIV)
The caring love of a parent for the young is embedded by the Creator, whose own parental love is unconditional. That sacrificial love dwells within us, waiting to bring mutual joy. Being the biological parent isn’t necessary, although it sharpens our instincts quickly. Foster, or adoptive, parents are a precious gift to those little ones who lack them. Grandparents have the privilege of repeating the process and sometimes to contribute wisdom into the intergenerational mix. A wider network of loving ‘aunts’ and ‘uncles’ provides a rich benefit, especially for those who lack their immediate relatives nearby. An appropriate response to the unconditional love offered to us is to foster loving connections, where they are needed and welcome. I hope to facilitate some intergenerational mixing where this can naturally occur. Let me know if you are interested in connecting in this way. It is important for everyone to love and be loved for just who they are.
Happy Mother’s Day to all mums - and to all those who nurture younger ones with love. Thank you for your contribution towards a hopeful future for all.
The articles here were written by Peter Andrews on behalf of the Chaplaincy Team from beginning 2023.