Brooding is the mother of all love-words,—friendship, wooing, pitying, helping, mothering, fathering, witnessing, believing. It is the mother-word, from out whose warm womb all these others come, warm, too, and full of gentle strong life. Its mother quality is so strong that we are apt to think of it only in connection with actual mothers, mothers among animals and birds and of our human kind.
But this is only one meaning, really a surface meaning, though such a fine deep meaning in itself. Its real heart meaning lies much deeper. Brooding is the mother of all love. It is its warmth that draws out that fine feeling that makes and marks friendship. It is its tender warmth that draws out that finest degree of friendship which knits with unbreakable bonds two lives into one.
It reaches out most subtly to knit up again the ends that have ravelled out under the sore stress of life. It bends compassionately over those hurt in body, and hurt yet more in their spirit by the greedy rivalry of life, and nurses into newness of life the shivering shredded hurt parts. In the more familiar use of the word it fathers and mothers the newly minted morsels of precious humanity, coming into life with big wondering eyes.
And it warms into highest life that highest love that, through the process of hearing, assenting, trusting, risking, giving the heart’s devotion, comes to know God as a tender Father, and Christ as a precious personal Saviour. Whether in close friend, or ardent lover, gracious philanthropist, devoted parent, or earnest witness, it is the same warm thing underneath, at its fine task—brooding.
We think of it most in the mother. For it comes to its highest human perfection there. The true thoughtful mother is first and chiefest a brooder. She broods in spirit till her child looks into her eyes, bearing the image, in face and mental impress and spirit, which the brooding months have given. She broods over the inarticulate days when the babe cannot tell the felt needs except to a brooding mother’s keen insight.
She broods over the baby-talk days; over the struggling days when the child would tell its awakening thoughts out in words, but doesn’t know how yet; over the wilful days which come so early when the first battles come that decide the whole future.
With a warmth of tenderness and patience, and a strength of gentle wise insistence, more than human, she broods. It takes the very strength of her life, far far more than in prenatal days. So there comes, slowly, but as she keeps true to the brooding spirit, surely, the strong gentle self-controlled life out of the warm womb of her brooding life. So comes the child’s higher birth, so preparing the way for the yet higher.