So the Lord answers, “Can a woman forget her own baby and not love the child she bore? Even if a mother should forget her child, I will never forget you. Jerusalem, I can never forget you! I have written your name on the palms of my hands.” [Isaiah 49:15-16 (GNT)]
While walking in the park, we came across a female snapping turtle that had dug her nest near the trail. Normally an aggressive species, she would passively stay there over the next several hours while laying twenty to forty eggs. Two days later, we walked past the same spot only to find her nest had been destroyed. The empty shells scattered along the trail told us a raccoon (or other predator) had enjoyed a turtle omelet soon after mama turtle’s departure. When I saw the damage, I felt sorry for this mother who’d worked so hard just two days earlier. I then realized she would never know and didn’t really care. After laying her eggs, she returned to the water and never looked back. If her eggs hatched, it would have been up to the tiny hatchlings to find their way to water before becoming dinner for some hungry animal. Once in the water, they’d be on their own as they tried to avoid being eaten by fish and other turtles (possibly even by their mother). There will be no Mother’s Days cards for Ms. Turtle.
Alligators, however, are pretty good mothers. While 85% of turtle nests are destroyed by predators, because Ms. Gator carefully covers her nest and guards her eggs while incubating, less than a third of alligator nests are ever raided. When the mother hears her babies starting to hatch, she uncovers the nest and gently carries the hatchlings to the water. Mama Gator protects her young for over a year and few predators dare attempt to approach the little guys with mama staying so near. I, for one, never expected to see a baby gator sunning on his mama’s back! While cold blooded, Ms. Gator is anything but cold to her young.
While I’m not sure they’ll appreciate the comparison, most of us were blessed with women in our lives who were more like the alligator than the turtle. But, for those who weren’t, God provided us with foster, step and adoptive mothers, along with aunts, mothers-in-law, teachers, neighbors and mentors, all of whom watched over us. They were like the Muscovy duck I recently saw at a park. Muscovies typically lay a clutch of eight to sixteen eggs. Perhaps another mother had met an unfortunate demise because this duck was watching over more than thirty little ones; she was running the equivalent of ducky foster care. I watched as she chased off a softshell turtle as it swam near in search of a duckling lunch. This large turtle is an aggressive hunter but, fortunately for the ducklings, he was no match for Ms. Duck. She kept an eye on that turtle as it circled around the young ones and fearlessly snapped at it whenever it dared approach. She also kept nudging the ducklings along the shore into a more protected area. No matter whose babies they were, she seemed determined that not a one of those little guys would be lost on her watch.
Several Bible verses compare God to a mother. Let’s not make the mistake of thinking a mother only comforts and nurtures. We mothers can be pretty tough when someone messes with our children. Thank you God for the women you brought into our lives—women who comforted and encouraged us, taught us about love, and shared their faith with us. Thank you for those women who had eyes in the back of their heads, knew when we told a fib, stood up for us and taught us to stand up for ourselves, and cared enough to punish us when we misbehaved. Thank you for the women who watched over us, taught us how to navigate the murky waters of life, and kept us safe from harm.