God, Our Mother

mothergod

There is no doubt that children learn about who God is through their parents. If our parents were difficult to please, we will often view God as difficult to please. If our parents were too strict, we will often view God as too strict. If our parents were loving and good, we will often view God as loving and good. If our parents were abusive, we will often view God as abusive.

Our earliest ideas about who God is are formed by the way in which our parents treat us and interact with us. 

To a child, a mother and a father are representatives of God. Perhaps this is the reason God has placed a special call on Christians to take in and love the orphan.

As a mentor to Christian women, I speak with many young women who are trying to overcome their view of God as a “no-nonsense authoritarian.” This is almost always due to their parents adhering to overly strict parenting ideals, such as blind “first time obedience.”

I have always wondered why many Christian parents require their children to always obey the first time they are told. I don’t know any adults who always obey God the first time they are told. Why do we train children not to question authority? Does this not set them up for following the wrong people too easily?

My mom read some of these religious teachings early in her parenting journey, but her gift of mercy made her terrible at implementing them. She was trying to listen to the Christian “experts” in hopes of raising God-fearing children; yet, she failed to be strict because her love for her children overpowered all of the rules.

And so, I learned that God loves me more than God loves rules. I learned that God is patient with my shortcomings and does not require “first time obedience.” I learned that God is on my team, and that God believes in me more than the “experts'” advice. I learned that God’s love is unconditional and there is nothing I can do, or not do, to separate myself from Her love. 

I know that many people struggle to view God as a woman, due to patriarchal beliefs that lurk among us, but Jesus did not struggle to see God as female. God does not have a literal gender, but God does represent both feminine and masculine attributes. We know this because male and female were both made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27).

Jesus helps us to view God as “Mother” in Matthew 23:37

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! (NRSV).”

There is nothing that makes my mother’s heart soar more than a gathering of her children. When my mother has all of her children in one room and everyone is getting along, she is in all her glory. My mother-in-law feels the same way about her children and grandchildren.

In fact, I don’t know any mothers who don’t long to gather all their children up, encourage them to love one another, and eat a meal together. Many women are made like God in this way. 

Jesus also helps us to view God as female in Luke 15:8-10:

“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (NRSV). 

Throughout my entire life, there is nothing my mother has wanted more than for her children to follow Christ. Every decision that was made followed this question, “Will this decision lead our children closer to Christ or further from Christ?” There were times in high school in which my sister and I have been out doing things we shouldn’t have been doing, and my mom was at home on her knees praying throughout the night.

God our Mother allows us to do things we should not be doing, but She rejoices when we are found. God’s love for us is not conditional based on our obedience. No, Her love is neverending and She is easy to please.

In Hosea 11:3-4, God is compared to a mother, yet again.

“Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them (NRSV).”

The imagery here is beautiful…we see God as soft, healing, nourishing, kind, and easy to approach. I am grateful to have a mother that reflects God’s image in this way; she has always been a safe place for my brokenness to land.

One Hebrew name for God found in the Old Testament is El Shaddai, which means “many breasted one.” This presents us with an image of God being a “provider” for Her people, as a mother provides milk for her newborn. It is not only fathers who are meant to provide for their children, but mothers as well. Provision may look like planning homeschooling lessons or working a full-time job. Both are godly choices.

My mother built her own retail business from the ground up when I was a child, managed 50 employees or so, and greatly helped to support our family financially. She was a provider, just as God is a provider.

She also cooked dinner most nights of the week, kept our house beautiful enough to be featured in Victorian Homes Magazine, took in orphans to live with us, invited the poor and marginalized into our home for holidays, and was always involved in church ministries.

Mother God is also a fierce protector of Her children. Hosea 13:8 says,

“I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs, and will tear open the covering of their heart; there I will devour them like a lion, as a wild animal would mangle them (NRSV).”

Mother God protects. Mother God provides. Mother God loves unconditionally. Mother God is approachable. Mother God is merciful. Mother God nourishes our soul. Mother God is just. She longs to gather every last one of us. She longs for us to come home and take rest in her arms.

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20 Comments

  • Beautiful words that honor your Mother, but also bless and honor all Mothers as they try to reflect God’s Love to their children. Thanks Jory.

  • Yes!!! I have beem embracing God as mother but also realizing that God is too great to adequately describe in our limited vocabulary and human experience.

  • It’s interesting that so many people have a problem using feminine language for God in place of masculine language. Most Christians would agree with John’s Gospel that “God is Spirit,” and that all references to God’s physicality (eyes, ears, etc.) is metaphor. There is one particular body part, however, that people just can’t let go of thinking of as literal. God doesn’t really have eyes, because God is Spirit. God doesn’t really have ears, because God is Spirit. But God cannot possibly be a woman, because he has a–ahem–you get the picture…

  • I agree that we need to remember that God has mother-like attributes. I appreciated that part of your piece, but I can’t get past what seems like a critical attitude towards parents wanting their kids to obey the first time. Children aren’t ready yet to question authority. They need to accept it until they’ve learned enough and know themselves well enough to question. That’s what adolescence is for. When it comes to children, it’s rather essential they obey the first time. I need my kids to obey the first time they reach out for the hot stove and I tell them not to; the first time they run for the street and I tell them to stop; the first time they go to hug the strange dog in the front yard… It’s endless. 🙂

    • Thanks for your thoughts.

      Notice, that I did not say that parents should not “want” their kids to obey the first time. Of course parents want that.

      I said,

      “I learned that God is patient with my shortcomings and does not require “first time obedience.” In other words, there is grace and love and acceptance is never withheld for not obeying the first time.

      “require” and “desire” are two different things. there is much grace with God as our parent, as I am sure there is much grace with you as a parent. God bless, friend. 🙂

  • Thanks so much for this post! God is both Mother and Father to me and I’m delighted to find more and more Christians daring to express their joy in knowing God this way. I will say, however, I no more wish to use exclusively feminine language and imagery for our Beloved Parent than I wish to go back to exclusive masculine language. Blessings, -JoMae

  • Your thoughts on teaching children obedience are spot on with mine. Parents and God are not to be feared, but are the most important examples of love to children.

    I’ve never taught my children to “obey” me. Listen to me, yes. 🙂 They are both well behaved girls in elementary school who stand up for themselves and their friends. We have taught them to think for themselves. I never wanted them to obey me, but instead decide on the right decisions by thinking for themselves. Wonderful post. 🙂

  • So many of us hear God described in exclusively masculine terms and metaphors while the feminine ones are glossed over. Even thinking of God as feminine seems wrong somehow, though i know intellectually that it’s not. I’ve come to realize that this is why i have a hard time truly grasping that I, too, am made in the image of God and that it is good.

  • For me I can see God as Mother as well as Father, but I have trouble calling Him that. Because every time I think to refer Him as She I automatically think of pagan, female deities.

  • Just want to say I resonate with both the post and with some of the comments from women who have a hard time going there to “Mother” for God. Growing up evangelical, we’re cautioned about goddess religions. So I wanted to share that I’ve been on a journey of learning to call God Mother for the past two years, and share some of that on my blog, http://www.mothergodexperiment.com. Here’s a post about the whole goddess question:

    http://www.mothergodexperiment.com/god-mother-isnt-goddess/

  • So many fail to understand the “all or full spectrum” gender concept of a God that embodies all that is good and shares it with creation. The writers of the Old Testament were much closer to the concept of the Father/Mother God. Jesus may well have spoken more of the feminine aspects of God but our Bible content was chosen by those working with a Roman Emperor in a Roman thought dominated world that was already highly patriarchal.

    Thank you, for working to bring back some balance! It is the softer influences of the feminine, mother side of God that we all need to see and embrace. God the loving, forgiving, embracing parent.

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