Five months ago I wrote about Escape, our borrowed buck, and lessons I learned from his presence in our goat herd. Now, five months later (the gestation period for goats, not coincidentally), Escape is gone and we have five amazing female kids spreading their adorable hilarity in our backyard and teaching me even more.
One of the prominent sights to behold in our growing herd is the power of maternal instinct. Immediately after each kid’s birth the mother begins licking her clean, even as she is regaining strength to give birth again. The tenderness of her care is palpable. Of course, maternal instinct also manifests in less tender ways. Since we had two does give birth two days apart, the mothers are highly protective of their own. When we let all the new kids into the yard at the same time, Treasure and Cammy constantly sniff the kids to confirm which belong to them. Any encroachment of the other mother too close to her kid is sure to incite a swift, forceful head butt.
As meaningful as these observations have been, the most surprising revelation has been the contrast between goat infancy and human infancy when it comes to dependence. Cammy gave birth to three kids, and before she delivered the third, the first was already walking. What takes human babies 10 months to do took this kid 10 minutes. If a goat were to die in childbirth, the survival of her kid would be difficult but possible. A human baby, by contrast, could never survive if unattended. This begs the question of why. Why did God create us to be born into such absolute dependency?
Ponder the nature of the parent-child relationship that emerges from our design of helplessness in infancy. When we have needs, all we can do is cry out and hope that our caregiver will meet them. When we nurse, we look into the eyes of the one giving us nourishment. When these early experiences are healthy they create attachment, bonding, and intimacy. We learn that it is good to voice our needs and depend on others to have those needs met. In this regard, our helplessness is a gift that teaches us to love and trust.
Such intimacy flows not from random biological factors but from our creation in the image of God. When John writes of God the Son and God the Father that “the Word was with God” (John 1:1) before the worlds were created, the language insinuates a face-to-face communion. In that communion they loved one another and shared glory (John 17:5, 24). Though the full nature of such divine communion is beyond our understanding, it is clearly the model for the attachment, bonding, and intimacy which we are created to experience both with others and with God. Paul likened his interactions with the Thessalonian believers as “gentle…like a nursing mother taking care of her own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7). Likewise, God often personifies himself as a nurturing mother. “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem” (Isaiah 66:13).
As much joy as our frolicking newborn goats may bring, they lack the depth of capacity for intimacy with which God has endowed us. For this capacity we should be grateful. Sadly, this is also accompanied by an increased depth of pain, destruction, and perversion when we rebel against God and reject his design of intimacy. As we survey the ways in which we have been the recipients and perpetrators of broken trust and disrupted attachment, let us cry out to God for help. Let us voice our needs to him. He is the Father who sent his beloved Son from his heavenly presence to enter our world, confront the brokenness, and bring us back into face-to-face communion with God. As we look to him with childlike faith, may he restore to us increasing degrees of intimacy until he brings us home to our perfect rest.