The Mothering God

Proverbs 31, Luke 15

We don’t always realize how our culture determines of religious interpretations. The practical realities of one’s life shapes how you interpret God.

In the time of when kings ruled, such as in the time of the Old Testament, God was compared to the power of the local kings. God would then be described as the king of kings—far surpassing any earthly king.

In the paternalistic culture of those early times, God was always depicted in anthropomorphic terms; a kind of super-human, and specifically, a super “man” with the emphasis on the masculine.

Today we understand how these concepts take shape and become dominant, but we do not have to remain stuck in cultural structures of thinking. We can think outside the box.

God is undefinable, to begin with. No human has the right or the ability to say that they can define God for the rest of us. In fact, in the Old Testament, you were not even permitted to utter the word, “God”.

The Swiss theologian Karl Barth, described God as; “der ganz Andere”—the totally different. Meaning, we have no clue—we only know God is not what we think. We cannot capture God’s complexity in human language or experience.

We thus know that the he-man-God is a wobbly expression in our grasping for understanding. We have as much license to imagine God as Divine Mother as we do, Divine Father.

What happens to our image of God once we add to our imagination of God, the feminine aspect—God, the Mother? Won’t it broaden our possibilities for understanding God? At least know that we are working in the dark and the images and interpretations evolve because society and culture changes all the time.

Why even mention this?

Well, because there are many people in the world whose experience of a father figure is so painful that they cannot connect father and God. Think of those who have suffered abuse from a father. There are many other examples.

The same is true when using the mother image but as we said, no image is perfect. Allowing us to imagine God as mother simply broadens the scope in our human search for answers.

Today we focus on mothers. After all, it is Mother’s Day today. A day when those of us who were blessed with mothers that cared for us and loved us and shaped our lives in caring ways, pause to give thanks.

Henza and I am two of the fortunate ones who have the most beautiful memories of our mothers, now long gone and deeply missed. Women who loved us and nurtured us, giving as much of themselves as they had to give. Women whom we know would have given their lives for us. We would like to join the millions of fortunate ones who wish to honor their mothers today with thoughts and prayers and words of gratitude.

To all the mothers of the world who love and nurture children; yours is a Sacred mission which you are fulfilling. Thank you.

In the words of Proverbs;

The woman to be admired and praised
is the woman who embraces God’s mission for her.
Give her everything she deserves!
Festoon her life with praises!

Today we “festoon our mothers lives with praises!”

There is a Spanish proverb that says; “An ounce of mother is worth a ton of priest.” My sons will attest to that.

In the Gospel of Luke we read the story of a woman who puts her life on halt as she searches for her one lost coin, an obvious play on God who will put everything on hold to make sure that none of us remain lost. It’s the image of a loving parent who will upend their lives in search of the one that needs their attention.

If the storytellers of the Bible create the image of God mostly in masculine form we can easily imagine God as a loving mother seeking our best interests every day. Sparing nothing to ensure the welfare of her child—even the one that stray off and gets lost.

But the Bible also has unmistakable feminine interpretations of God.

In Hosea 13:8, the prophet imagines God as an angry mother bear defending her cubs.

In Deuteronomy 32:11-12, we witness God as a majestic mother eagle who “stirs up its nest, and hovers over its young; as it spreads her wings, takes them up, and bears them aloft on its pinions.”

These verses paint a picture of God in unmistakably feminine characteristics.

What is more impressive than the image of God as a mamma bear protecting her cubs or an eagle hovering with her chicks in sight?

Angela Kahbeb writes in her web article, Faith Reflections; Our Mothering God, describing God as an unflinching, mothering God. Angela speaks of her relationship to her own 5 year old son, Kanami’s, meltdown in the dentist’s chair after breaking a tooth. ‘During the examination Kanami hit me, kicked me, bit me, slapped me and head-butted me.’”

And when the commotion is over and they are heading home the child apologizes to her and she reassures him that she understands. [1]

“After all, I knew he was frightened, confused, and in pain. I understood that he did not understand.

“This is how we wrestle with God”, she says.

“Kicking and screaming when we find ourselves in unfamiliar places, scary places, or in pain. When God redirects us for our own good, we respond to God’s mothering love with tantrums. We cry out. We bite. We hit. We kick. But our mothering God is unflinchingly, unconditionally devoted to us.”

Dorothy, from the GOLDEN GIRLS-fame says; “It is not easy being a mother. If it were easy, fathers would do it.”

Mixing in a sprinkling of humor; FLORIDA SCOTT-MAXWELL wrote; “No matter how old a mother is, she watches her middle-aged children for signs of improvement.”

Today we find the Bible guiding us towards understanding God as a loving mother and father, loving us without reservation, totally dedicated to us finding our way through life, even when we become lost.

KATE SAMPERI said; “Before becoming a mother I had a hundred theories on how to bring up children. Now I have seven children and only one theory: love them, especially when they least deserve to be loved.”

With these images I leave you to draw your own conclusions on how to imagine God in your life.

May the God of the Universe bless and keep you and may his or her love sustain the women of the earth whose love is as essential to us as the air that we breathe. Amen.

Luke 15

8-10 “…imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it you can be sure she’ll call her friends and neighbors: ‘Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!’ Count on it—that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God.”

Proverbs 31

When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say,
and she always says it kindly.
She keeps an eye on everyone in her household,
and keeps them all busy and productive.
Her children respect and bless her;
her husband joins in with words of praise:
“Many women have done wonderful things,
but you’ve outclassed them all!”
Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades.
The woman to be admired and praised
is the woman who embraces God’s mission for her.
Give her everything she deserves!
Festoon her life with praises!