I used to be uncomfortable with the thought of God as mother, with the thought of God as one who mothers us.
That may be an uncomfortable concept for you too.
For some, God as father is uncomfortable and even troubling, especially if they grew up with an absent or an abuse father.
I’ve found that for a lot of people I know, their relationships with their parents can impact how they relate with God – and this looks so very different for each and every one of us.
We all get to connect with God in our own unique ways that transcend one another’s understanding, even our own understanding. God is a God of personal relationship. A God of personal knowing.
Even though we can know and learn about the God of our Holy Bible, we also know that God is so much more than what is contained in that book. Because our experience of God and with God goes beyond what the writers of scripture experienced. And God goes beyond what we, personally, experience.
I think that’s the uncomfortable thing.
A God we cannot contain or control to the pages of a holy book.
A God we cannot fully describe with the limitations of the human language.
A God that no one can fully master, not even those who have degrees upon degrees in divinity and theology.
A God of expansive mystery.
A God who made not just man in their image in the garden, but man and woman, who have since birthed a glorious diversity of genders in their image.
I don’t get hung up on whether God has a gender and, if so, what gender God is. I personally believe that God transcends gender and that spending time arguing about what pronouns or parental metaphors to use when talking about God is not a great use of our time or energy.
We do know that, according to the Bible I read, that Jesus prayed to a father God.
We also know that, according to the Bible I read, that God is portrayed with feminine imagery, as a maternal figure who gives birth (Deu 32:18) and who cries out in labor while doing so (Is 42), who protects (Is 42) and who comforts (Is 66), who has compassion (Is 49), and who nurses their children (Is 49:15). Even Jesus, in both Matthew and Luke, describes himself as a mother hen protecting her chicks.
I’m a mom, in the traditional, biological sense of the word. I’ve been a mom for three years, and as unexpected as motherhood was for me, I have mostly loved every bit of it.
And I have a mom, in the traditional, biological sense of the word – a mom who is a positive presence in my life and who I love a lot. Who is my best friend. Who I talk to almost every day and look forward to seeing whenever I can. We have a really great relationship, as do my dad and I.
The metaphor God as a parental figure – whether that be God as mother or God as father – is one I welcome. These metaphors are useful for me and allow me to taste the goodness, the love, the comfort and protection and care of God on a very human level that I may not otherwise be able to experience and connect with.
The Bible may have been written in very patriarchal culture where women were merely property, and yet, while there may not be much mention of God in the feminine form – it’s certainly there. And I can’t help but believe those feminine metaphors for God were quite radical in those days. And I can’t help but believe that whatever God’s gender or non-gender might be, that God is unarguably both masculine and feminine. That both men and women were created in God’s image. And wherever in the expansive mystery of God’s being you find comfort, and wherever in God’s enormous love that you experience hope and healing, whether it’s in the masculine or the feminine or both… makes God’s comfort and love and healing no lesser real or powerful than the comfort and love and healing I know and experience. Amen?
I’ve heard it said before that mothering is a verb. And it’s true – giving birth to another human is not a prerequisite to mothering. Neither is formal adoption. One can mother in a great variety of ways, but the primary meaning of mothering as a verb is to care for or protect like a mother.
I want to take a few minutes to make space to consider how God mothers us, and how God’s people – you and I – spiritually mother one another.
How does God give life and nurture life in you?
How do you, in turn, give life and nurture life in others?
Now ask God to bring to mind the mothers who have given you life when you felt depleted of it, who have nurtured your weary soul and gave it a new strength to keep on going?
Ask God to bring to mind the mothers who have comforted you, who have had enormous compassion for you?
Ask God to bring to mind the mothers who have made space at their table for you and have fed you?
Ask God to bring to mind the mothers who have advocated on your behalf, and protected you as a hen protecting her chicks?
Thank God for all of those in your life who have mothered you, and whom you have mothered.
Now thank God for showing us how to be spiritual mothers and, in some cases, biological mothers.
Now let’s respond to a mothering God who comforts us.
Lectio Divina is an ancient liturgical practice for praying the scriptures. It is a Latin phrase that means “sacred reading.” It is a way of praying and listening for the still, small voice of God speaking through gentle reading or listening of scripture. Lectio Divina has also been known as “listening with the ear of the heart.”
As you settle into a place of loving openness, in a posture or position to listen more deeply, I’m going to read from 2 Corinthians 1 three times. After each reading, there will be a moment of silence.
In this first reading from 2 Corinthians, listen for a word or a phrase that draws your attention.
In this second reading, consider how this passage touches your life today.
In this third reading of the scripture, consider if there is an invitation for you in this coming week.
May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be blessed! He is the compassionate Father and God of all comfort. He’s the one who comforts us in all our trouble so that we can comfort other people who are in every kind of trouble. We offer the same comfort that we ourselves received from God. That is because we receive so much comfort through Christ in the same way that we share so many of Christ’s sufferings. So if we have trouble, it is to bring you comfort and salvation. If we are comforted, it is to bring you comfort from the experience of endurance while you go through the same sufferings that we also suffer. Our hope for you is certain, because we know that as you are partners in suffering, so also you are partners in comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
God, Thank You for taking care of your children.
For loving us fiercely when we feel unlovable
For feeding us when we’re hungry
For nourishing us when we’re weak
For protecting us when we’re scared
For comforting us when we’re sad and uncertain
For having compassion on us when we do wrong
Hold us near to you, O God.
God, Thank you for the example you have given us for mothering
And showing us how to love and care for your children among us
Help us to to love fiercely the unlovable
Help us to feed those who are hungry
Help us to nourish those who are weak
Help us to protect those who are scared
And to comfort those who are sad and uncertain
Help us, God, to have compassion on one another
when we do wrong and when wrong is done against us
May your children feel closer to your loving kindness
when they come near to us
Thank you, God, for your mothering spirit, and for empowering us with that very same spirit.