On Ostriches and Storks {The Grove: Hesed}

I’m addicted to my tension. I squirrel it away in my shoulders and across the middle of my back like a twitchy little critter. The science shows that this is as destructive a habit as a poor diet or substance abuse.

I know this about myself, so I’ve built pressure release valves into my life. I rest, read, and meditate for an hour after lunch every day while my four-year-old listens to audiobooks. I practice yoga. I keep Sabbath. I vacation with my family for a week each year, and run away with my husband regularly. I choose yearly One Words like “slow” and “flow.” I use lavender, peppermint, frankincense, and ylang-ylang essential oils. I quit coffee.

These consistent habits could look sleek to the untrained eye, but do you know what a tension addict does with the space she creates with good habits?

She over-functions when she’s “on,” so that she can earn time “off.” Pulling back on commitments won’t cure it. The addiction is soul deep. As in yoga, what’s needed is to cultivate ease in the pose, to breathe deeply when what feels most natural is to hold your breath and muscle through.

An addict needs outside help, and this is the stage I’m at now. I really want to live differently, and I’m now willing to do the work and spend the resources to get help. I’m seeing a massage therapist who works on the tension I’ve accumulated, and I’ve scheduled an initial conversation with a spiritual director that I hope will lead to a transformative relationship.

Hesed is about repair. It’s the force eternally existent in the Trinity that works shalom. It’s also the committed space in which God nurtures God’s people to maturity. The word hesed is linguistically related to the Hebrew word for “stork,” because the stork outshines all other animals as a good mother.[i]

Her antithesis is the ostrich.

“The ostrich flaps her wings futilely—all those beautiful feathers, but useless! She lays her eggs on the hard ground, leaves them there in the dirt, exposed to the weather, not caring that they might get stepped on and cracked or trampled by some wild animal. She’s negligent with her young, as if they weren’t even hers. She cares nothing about anything. She wasn’t created very smart, that’s for sure, wasn’t given her share of good sense. But when she runs, oh, how she runs, laughing, leaving horse and rider in the dust.”[ii]

In her chapter on the Ostrich from Consider the Birds, Debbie Blue suggests that God’s poetic “Where were you?” response to Job, which contains this Ode to the Ostrich, isn’t so much thunderous rebuke as it is a tender shift away from a human-centric worldview. God speaks affectionately about creatures we disdain, like the crummy ostrich mother, or a twitchy squirrel.

Debbie Blue concludes: “God is not judging, censoring, or slaying any part of the wild creation in this poetry—God gave birth to it, and like a mother, God is nursing it, swaddling it, and seeing to its upbringing. It may be a long process, but God is loving the world into fully being.”

God is loving you into fully being. It may be a long process.

Are you addicted to your tension? Where is God nurturing you to maturity?

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This is The Grove.  It’s where we gather to share our thoughts, our words, and our art.  So join us in the comments.  Show us your art work by adding an image. And link up your own blog posts on this week’s prompt “Metaphor”.  Click here for details and instructions. 

 

 

[i] Card, Michael. Luke: The Gospel of Amazement (2011).

[ii] Job 39:13-18, The Message.

 

28 Comments

  1. Amy Young February 11, 2016

    Kim I love this so much. I first heard about Consider the Birds from you and think we MUST read it in book club. You’ve inspired me again 🙂

    1. Kimberly Todd February 12, 2016

      Thanks, Amy! I’m all smiles about that idea, and with all the “yeses” echoed here in the comments, I think we really must. =)

  2. Joyce Stauffer February 11, 2016

    Thanks for sharing once again, Kim!  I love birds,  so as Amy mentioned, I might have to take a look at that bird book!  And also thanks for the reminder to deal with tension… I know I have it, and for me,  I  know it’s linked to performing, doing, getting my list done, wanting approval…rather than resting in God’s hands and abiding in Him. Easy to say, hard to live.

    1. Kimberly Todd February 12, 2016

      So hard to live! Here’s to picking the narrow way again.

      I bet you’d really like this book, Joyce. It made me more aware of our feathered friends, more curious about them, and the way she writes about God is so life-giving.

      Thanks for commenting!!

       

  3. Michele Womble February 11, 2016

    oh how I loved this!

    “God speaks affectionately about creatures we disdain, like the crummy ostrich mother, or a twitchy squirrel.”

    Maybe even…cockroaches.

    I love birds, too, and now I’m intrigued about “that bird book”, as well, SO I’m all for adding it to the book club list!

     

    I also really loved this line : “what’s needed is to cultivate ease in the pose, to breathe deeply when what feels most natural is to hold your breath and muscle through.”

    It’s not so easy to do, though.   It sounds like a great description of learning to walk with God moment by moment…learning to breathe deeply (of Him) in each moment until one day maybe it will be what  feels most natural…

    1. Kimberly Todd February 12, 2016

      Thanks, Michelle!

      I love the idea of breathing deeply of God. A little while ago, my littlest one picked up the bottle of frankincense, breathed deeply, and said, “Mmm, it smells like God.” I believe him. How many scents are described in the Scriptures, and what do they reveal about God?

      Exactly this: until one day maybe it will be what feels most natural. This is the mark.

  4. Michele Womble February 11, 2016

    About my link-up post… I almost didn’t share it because I wasn’t sure if it would be apparent why for me it is Hesed  (Pieces of Siberia in Atlanta) – but…for me, for that day, it was.  It still is.  So… I linked it.

    1. Kimberly Todd February 12, 2016

      I’m so glad you did. There’s Hesed all over it.

  5. Meagan February 11, 2016

    I was pretty excited to see that this week’s word is ‘chesed’, especially since I haven’t had a chance to share anything this year. I kinda cheated with my post as chesed happens to be my one word for this year, so I finally forced myself to jot something down about that. 2016 has not started well for me and it is the assurance of God’s steadfast love, despite circumstances, that gives me strength as I draw on hope that is found in Him alone.

    1. Michele Womble February 12, 2016

      I don’t think it was cheating at all!  It was just a little reminder about your word… and a prompting for you to share with us about it.

    2. Kimberly Todd February 12, 2016

      Meagan, it’s so good to see you here this week. I’m so sorry this year is a rocky one, and we’re holding on to chesed with you and for you. Thanks for jotting your thoughts and linking.

  6. Spring February 12, 2016

    That looks like such a good book. If I didn’t have so many others on my list to read.. (hey I’m still finishing up Wild in the Hollows) I would pick it up.

    This was my favorite line from your post: She over-functions when she’s “on,” so that she can earn time “off. 

    This is me to a tee, only I rarely “earn” the time off.  Thank you for the reminder that even the addiction to being busy is a process to unwind.

    1. Kimberly Todd February 12, 2016

      I have a friend who is lenting busyness this year. I love that.

      Thanks for your comment, Spring. May hesed accompany you through the process of unwinding.

  7. Ruth February 12, 2016

    I love my spiritual director.  I haven’t really worked on getting one on the field or meeting with mine from the U.S. via technology, but I saw her while I was back in the U.S. for a couple of weeks (new nephew, spiritual director, hair cut, aging grandfather, close friends, and Lake Michigan were my priorities).  Having a spiritual director has been such an encouraging spiritual discipline in my life!  I hope that it is for you, too!  Side note: I have heard that if the first person you meet with isn’t right for you, try with someone else, because every spiritual director has his/her own style.  I happened to hit it off with the first person I met, for which I’m very thankful (I was really nervous going in).

    1. Kimberly Todd February 12, 2016

      Ruth, thank you for this! I’ve been so slow to take the plunge. I’ve researched it, read a book about it, asked others about their experiences, but I still feel nervous. Your comment gives me courage.

  8. Elizabeth February 12, 2016

    Didn’t realize till I read this, but your 4th paragraph is ME. (Well, so are the first 3 paragraphs, but I already knew that I carry my tension and stress in my neck and shoulders, and occasionally, like this week, in my stomach — leading to an unpleasant but necessary temporary reduction in coffee consumption. And also, I really need to get a massage. It’s been 6 months or more, so no wonder I hurt! Sometimes I wonder what life would be like without chronic neck and back pain. . .)

    Anyway back to paragraph 4! That is me, over-functioning during work hours so I can totally unplug later! And I’ve begun to wonder lately if that’s the reason why I’m so tired in my “off” hours. . .

    Also a couple other notes — the bird book sounds fascinating! Amy I agree with the others, maybe we should read it for book club (though I’m so slow right now I might not stay up-to-date on it!). And also, love that you’re reading/have read Card’s book on Luke. I just started it (and want to read all 4 of them) (but am currently sidetracked by a couple other devotional books).

    1. Kimberly Todd February 12, 2016

      I’ve read Luke and Mark, and just saw (while I was studying for this post) that the other two are out now. Must read. Our last team read Mark together in the Spring of 2014, and that was fantastic.

      I want to know what life would be like without chronic back and shoulder pain! Here’s to finding out, eh?

      Thanks for commenting, Elizabeth! I’m glad that paragraph connected with you.

  9. Monica F February 12, 2016

    Thanks for a great post Kimberly.  I can totally identify with the chronic back and shoulder pain- while in China I would go see a blind massage therapist and get cupping done in our little town.  Beyond massage, I would recommend cupping and acupuncture- I think it goes even deeper, and has helped me so much.

    Thank you for sharing, I really appreciated your honesty about being addicted to tension, I can relate to that as well.  I would love to read that book as part of the book club.

    1. Kimberly Todd February 13, 2016

      Thanks for identifying, Monica. I never did venture into cupping and acupuncture when I lived in China, but I’m curious about them both. I’ll have my antennae up for them here now because deeper would be good..

      1. Joyce Stauffer February 13, 2016

        Did cupping, massage, and reflexology in China but didn’t like needles so no acupuncture. Traditional Chinese Medicine is very fascinating for sure…and can be very helpful, too!

        1. Kimberly Todd February 13, 2016

          Joyce, if you find a CM practitioner you like here in the area, be sure to let me know!

  10. Danielle Wheeler February 13, 2016

    Oh, Kim.  Some (a lot of?!) over-functioning has been going on over here.  Which is why I’m just now sitting down to soak in your post.  And oh, how it resonates.  So many thoughts.  A cup of tea around my table next weekend??  🙂

    1. Kimberly Todd February 13, 2016

      Yes, please! I can. not. wait. The mere thought of it fills my cup. =)

  11. Patty Stallings February 17, 2016

    Kim, we just had Michael Card with us at ATC again.  My measure of a Bible teacher is whether he/she helps me more fully understand the ways of God and fall more deeply in love with Jesus.  His teaching on Hesed certainly does both.

    Your words…”Hesed is about repair. It’s the force eternally existent in the Trinity that works shalom. It’s also the committed space in which God nurtures God’s people to maturity”  and “God is loving you into fully being” … reinforce the reminders of the depth of God’s compassion and lovingkindness towards us.

    We are loved completely in the very places we over-function, busy ourselves, live in tension. Thank you for reminding us of this beautiful, mysterious love we are being nurtured by and into!

    1. Kimberly Todd February 17, 2016

      Thanks, Patty! Michael Card’s teaching and writing does that for me, too.

      May we yield to this beautiful, mysterious love of God.

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