Fiercely Protected, Tenderly Loved

Nov 20 / Alyssa Bell

Listen to the audio version here:

We all need to know that we are safe and loved. These are basic, instinctual desires that, when met, reorient us to who we are: children created and cherished by the living God. The authors of A General Theory of Love propose that when we are connected to one another, we experience love, and “…. love alters the structure of our brains.” ¹ Our Creator knows this, and as we see from the larger story of scripture, is committed to pursuing us relentlessly so that we will know in the deepest parts of our being that we belong to God through the incarnation and saving work of Christ and the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

Each one of us experiences God in a unique way. Our histories, cultures, traumas, vocations, and family lines inform how we know and understand God, even as we read the same scriptures as another sibling on the faith journey. And yet, even in these disparities, God shows up. This is the miracle of being made in the Image of God – we get to know and be known by God no matter the stories that accompany our souls.

Part of my own story is this: I am a mom and a minister. These two pieces of me overlap in the practicalities of my life and impact how I read about the God of the Old and New Testaments. I long to be safe and loved, just like everyone else, and have found a spiritual haven in the image of God as my mother. I write about this journey in my book Calm and Quiet My Soul: A Holistic Approach to Spiritual Care for the Mothering Pastor.

When I read the Lord’s words in Hosea: “I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs,” ² I feel protected in a world of fear and mishap. Listening to the psalmist sing, “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me,” ³ lowers my anxiety and reminds me that I am treasured and loved. In the image of Mother, my God chases after my soul.

God is also father, wind, sustainer, counselor, and shepherd – and the list continues. Scripture depicts God, who is both knowable and beyond our comprehension, in a myriad of ways, enough to meet each one of us in our longing for safety and love. What a kind God we worship!

When we operate from a place of beloved security, we approach the world differently. We find the strength to take risks for the sake of justice, eyes to see others as image bearers, and voices to speak truth. Spiritual formation - the work of becoming more like Christ - transforms us so that we can partner with him in bringing change and hope to the world.

We all need to know that we are safe and loved. I wonder if there is an image of God in Scripture that invites you into this space? Spiritual Direction is a beautiful space to explore this question without judgment. My own Spiritual Director hosted space for me to rediscover God’s love for me during a season of grief, and it is my honor to offer that same gift to others in direction and as a pastor. Every soul deserves to know at their core that they are valued by the Creator God. This truth is the bedrock of our spiritual lives and has the power to move mountains.

¹ Thomas Lewis, M.D., Fari Amini, M.D., and Richard Lannon, M.D., A General Theory of Love (New York: Vintage Books, 2000), 123.
² Hosea 13:8, NRSV
³ Psalm 131:2, NRSV
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Alyssa Bell

Alyssa Bell is a tent-making Co-Associate Pastor at Shadle Park Presbyterian Church in Spokane, WA along with her husband Matthew. They have two daughters, Theresa and Susie. While serving the church, which she loves, she pursues complimentary vocational avenues like teaching and spiritual direction. Alyssa recently completed her Doctor of Ministry degree in Leadership and Spiritual Formation and is in the Spiritual Direction Training Program through the Companioning Center. She has a heart for mothers who minister, either in a church setting or elsewhere. For fun Alyssa enjoys walking, making music, reading mystery novels, and completing puzzles. Follow her on Instagram and check out her website.