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.