Mother’s Day is coming up this Sunday. (Which means that if you haven’t gotten your mom a card or a gift or have forgotten altogether, this is your helpful reminder…) So for our Tuesdevo today I thought it would be appropriate to share a story about my Mother. Now, I’m not talking about my biological mother, although I can assure you she is an amazing person with qualities unnumbered and I do, indeed, have hundreds of stories about her as she has(/is) been there for me through the years. No, I want to talk about Mother God.
God the Father gets a whole lot of air time, and for good reason. When Jesus talked about God, he referred to him as “Abba” meaning “loving Papa.” There are also plenty of scripture passages that utilize the masculine to express the personal God of the ancient Hebrews and early Christians. We have to remember, though, that the God that is far beyond our human comprehension, isn’t a human male – not human at all, in fact, (in case this needs expanding upon) and therefore not male – or at least not how we would understand it. Indeed, the scriptures are also full of feminine imagery for God*, they just don’t get as much, as I said, air time. God, of course, isn’t a human female, either, but we use these images for good reason. I’ve heard from plenty of (mostly male) pastors that they are ok with the use of feminine imagery for God, just don’t make God “It” because it takes away from our sense of a personal relationship. I don’t disagree with that. However, these same pastors (and don’t get me wrong, I LOVE these guys) still use almost exclusively male language for their references to God. I would love to challenge my male counterparts to intentionally use female imagery and pronouns for God at least as often as they utilize the male imagery and here’s why:
When my daughters were both toddlers, I found my life somewhat excruciating. It wasn’t because I didn’t love them… I adored them (still do)… but the toddler years are very hard on parents. (If you currently have toddlers… I promise, it gets better.) I was also struggling with early signs that my marriage wasn’t all I had hoped for it and I was balancing a tenuous work-school-housework schedule that many a mom has had to balance while struggling to keep my head above water. So I found myself, one hopeless afternoon, in the bathroom (I had locked myself in and my children out… we’ve all had those days) with my girls petitioning me for one thing or another on the other side of the door and me feeling like I simply had nothing else to give. I was in pain, agony really, emotionally and spiritually. Why did life have to be this hard? Is this what adulthood was really like? Is this what parenthood was all about? Was there any hope for a peaceful future where I didn’t feel like yelling at my two beautiful babies all the time? “God! God!” I cried out (and I remember this so vividly), “Why?! Why is this so hard?! God, don’t you understand?! No! No you don’t! You don’t get it! You’re a Father! And even when you came to earth you were a male… and a childless one at that!!!” I was so angry I was shouting at God. All of my being was hurling itself at the divine presence who I felt had let me, personally, down by letting life be this damn hard. My tears were bitter and my tone was insolent. I was damned angry with God.
But in that moment my spiritual imagination was flooded with images, comfort, compassion, and empathy. Images of Her warring children; Her children in need – crying out for food, comfort, justice; Her frustration with Her people lording it over one another… wave after wave of my Mother God’s experience of trying to hold Her fragmented family together and the pain She felt for her desperate children washed over me. Images of Her arms wrapping themselves, as best She could, around Her hurting children. In those images She told me that She understood; that She, too, was a Mother; that She could be with me in my pain because She’d been there. In the moments that followed I felt comfort and peace that I hadn’t in a long while. God did understand my pain. She was there for me. Her nurturing arms were always ready to pick me up and hold me close when I needed Her. And oh how I have needed her, My Mother, My God.
I don’t hold it against my friends and colleagues that they utilize male imagery for God. But I challenge them to move beyond it, because I know that this mom (and many others) needs her Mom to infuse her spiritual imagination so that the loneliness, the frustration, and the worry, doesn’t feel so less than because a Father God sits in judgment of it all… No, God gets it. She really truly understands. She’s been there. And so often She simply wants to hold us and comfort us in the midst of our pain. We are loved by Her.
*Genesis 1:27; Hosea 11:3-4; Hosea 13:8; Deuteronomy 32:11-12; Deuteronomy 32:18; Isaiah 66:13; Isaiah 49:15; Isaiah 42:14; Jeremiah 44:25; Psalm131:2; Psalm 123:2-3; Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34; Luke 15:8-10… Compiled by the Women’s Ordination Conference