by Cindy Steinbeck Newkirk
Barbara Amelia Matthes wrote an incredible memoir of her life journey before she died. My mind’s eye travels with her as her family journeyed from Germany to Illinois to California in the 1800s. The joys and hardships she recounts in this short memoir condense 95 years of vibrant life to a few short pages that touch me on many levels, so much so that I feel her presence in my life. Her son raised my grandmother who raised my father who raised me. Her memoir is her beautiful conversation with me. Even though I’ve never met her face to face, I have met her heart to heart.
The loving, nurturing touch of a mother takes many forms–an unborn child’s intimate connection with its mother’s body, an infant’s mouth on the mother’s breast, a mother’s mouth gently kissing the infant’s little body, and the mother’s hands tenderly tending to the child’s needs, to name a few. Touch draws the infant toward the love of the mother’s heart, the heart that nurtured the child for nine months in the womb. The primary benefit of nursing a child is the touch and deep expression of love so close to the mother’s heart; the secondary, albeit necessary, benefit of nursing is nutrition.
As the child grows and becomes more mobile and self-sufficient, the mother’s touch changes. The touch of the heart of the gentle, attentive mother continues to take place but necessarily shifts to conversations of the heart. Conversations of the heart guide the child into a journey into all aspects of their growing little being–heart, mind, body, soul, emotions, and spirit. The mother is called to intentionally reveal the complex nature of the way in which God created their being.
The mother draws the child into intimate conversations of the heart in order to help them discern and interpret the challenges and hardships they begin to face. The mother created the child’s life; the mother nurtured the life in her body, then at her breast; the mother continues to draw the child into the touch of her heart through conversation. Conversation gives the child the necessary skills for a successful life; conversation trains the child to be able to discern the truth from lies. As a mother’s gentle kiss on a wound helps heal the wound, conversations are a kiss on a wounded heart to heal the heart.
God’s conversation with us trains us to discern the truth from lies; God’s conversation heals our wounds. Our heavenly Father calls our attention to His holy conversation with us with words reflecting His love for our hearts from the eyes of a mother’s love: “‘Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her; that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious abundance.’ For thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice; your bones shall flourish like the grass; and the hand of the Lord shall be known to His servants, and He shall show His indignation against His enemies’” (Is. 66:10–14 ESV).
As a mother draws out the very best in her child through nurturing touch and healing conversations of the heart, God draws us into the beauty of His gifts through healing conversation. His love and mercy comforts us as a child is comforted at the mother’s breast. A mother’s consistent touch and conversation is critical in the spiritual, heart-and-soul journey of the child, which carries over to body, mind, and emotions. The child, through conversations of the heart, is drawn into God’s mercy and love as well as into the mother’s love and is taught to discern the truth from the lies. Through the mother’s conversations, the child is drawn into God’s conversations.
The mother’s touch and the mother’s heart reflect God’s touch and heart for us. May God grant us courage to pray for Him to provide us a person with whom to carry on tender conversation of the heart, whether through our own mothers or through another person He places in our lives. May God grant us boldness to be loving mothers to those around us and reach out in conversation to heal broken hearts with God’s mercy and love.
About the Author: A member of Trinity Lutheran Church, Paso Robles, Calif., Cindy Steinbeck Newkirk is the mother of Stacy (and husband Bryan) and Ryan (and wife Caitlin) and the wife of Tim. With her family, she operates Steinbeck Vineyards and Winery in Paso Robles. She is a graduate of Concordia University, Irvine, and serves on their Board of Regents.