Today is Mother’s Day… and in a Church that’s very comfortable with masculine, fatherly language about God, and on a day like today, it’s important to hear the other side that the Bible pays direct witness to: God as a loving mother.
When God creates in the Genesis poem, God creates them male and female in God’s own image. Right from the very beginning of scripture, what it means to be human, what it means to be male and female, is encapsulated in the Being of God. Rob Bell puts it best when he says, “God transcends and yet includes what we understand as male and female.” God’s image is upon both male and female and that image of God is realized in their relation to each other and to God as a community.
In the poetic drama of Job, as Job finally gets his audience with God, as Job cries out to God saying, “Why have you done this to me? What did I do to deserve this?”, God replies with a startling declaration: “From whose womb has come the ice? And the frost of heaven, who has given it birth?” In the very creative impulse of God is this feminine quality. God has given birth from God’s womb? This radically rejects our overly-masculine imagery of God, saying that deeply ingrained in the way God creates and relates with this earth is a feminine aspect, a motherly instinct that creates and sustains.
In the prophesies of Isaiah, as the prophet is delivering the good news of God’s reconciliation and promise, Isaiah writes the declaration of God, that “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you, Jerusalem.” Inextricably linked with the ways God provides salvation, restoration and covenant is the imagery of a mother as she nourishes, provides and comforts her own child.
But what is most indicative of this feminine, motherly God is the Hebrew word for compassion. The Hebrew word raham that is used countless times in the Old Testament to describe God’s intimate compassion is the same word in the Hebrew language for “womb”. When God is described as compassionate, God is really being described as “like a mother’s womb”. At the very core of the Hebrew scriptures is the idea that God as the creator, sustainer, comforter and compassionate lover, is like a mother.
Mom, when you went through the pain of my birth, and perhaps the even greater pain of my childhood; when you took care of me when I was sick, when you took care of me when you were sick; when you taught me how to read, when you taught me how to live; when you punished me when I did wrong, when you celebrated when I did right; when you helped me dream about my future, when you helped me learn from the past; when you sent me to my first day of full-day kindergarten, when you dropped me off for my first year of college: you were more like God to me than you will ever know.
You taught me what God’s love looks like every moment you spent loving me even when I was a pain. You teach me what it means for God to love me and what it means to love God back every time we talk on the phone, whether I’m telling you about exciting things that are happening or whether I’m bumming money off you because I spend too much at Taco Bell.
Thank you, mom, for being so like God. I love you, and Happy Mother’s Day.