My understanding of the love of God has always been animated by the imagery of a loving parent.  When I think of a parent’s love for a child, I imagine this as an earthly manifestation of the love of God.  This image is beautifully described in Luke 11: 11-13 NRSV:

Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish?   Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

This passage has always spoken to me in a personal way because it deals with food.  As a single father, meals with my sons always felt like a sacred time.  Mealtime continues to feel sacred with my wife as well as both biological and bonus children.  Mealtimes are important and having food to share is always a blessing.

In my last devotional, I mentioned I was reading the Old Testament and I was in the middle of Isaiah.  It has been slow going as I have to stop and read the commentary to understand what I am reading.  One image in Isaiah that strikes me is the feminine image of God as a caregiver for the people of Israel.  The passage of scripture I first ran across is from Isaiah 49:15 and it creates a beautiful, tender picture of feminine love.

Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? 

Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.  (Isaiah 49:15 NRSV)

Later in Isaiah,

As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you;  you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. (Isaiah 66:13 NRSV)

I find this idea of God encompassing both gender roles a lovely image.  I imagine that most parents recognize this idea in their own lives.  There are many times that gender roles are fluid as parents work to meet the needs of their children.  The times I remember filling a traditional mother role were when the boys were young, and since I had a more flexible schedule, I was the homeroom “mom” for their elementary classrooms.  Certainly, any father can be a homeroom mom, and many are.  However, I was most often the only father in the classroom for parties and other events.  I enjoyed this time I had with my sons, their peers, other moms, and teachers.

Other times when I was a single father in a situation that is culturally more a mother’s role was during my son’s proms and other social events when they were in high school.  Taking pictures of the boys and their dates at local parks, I was one of a few fathers present.  When my oldest son attended his senior prom with his girlfriend, they both asked me to cook a fancy meal for them in our home and I assisted in pinning on the traditional flowers.   In many ways, I engaged as a father in activities that are culturally mother roles.

Most importantly, I intentionally tried to love and to listen to my children deeply, purposely striving to be enough of a parent to fill both mother and father roles.  I am not unique in this endeavor.  Many families know this experience.

I had a dear friend who has been a single mom for many years.  During my single years, she would always send me warm wishes on Mother’s Day.  On Father’s day and I would be sure to do the same for her.  She always said that we were like a “spork” (a spoon/fork you sometimes get with a to-go meal).  I believe that notion of duality of the Devine presence is powerful!  God is the loving Mother-Father.

The image of the Holy God as a loving mother comforting a child is such a beautiful image and one I believe is so important now.  There are so many of us who are afraid, sick, unemployed and struggling financially.  God as a loving Mother Spirit is a profoundly comforting thought.  This image comes together in a passage of scripture from Hosea 11:3-4 

“Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I who 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.”

My prayer and hope for us all is an embrace in the arms of healing and health from a Holy, Mothering God.

Grace & Peace,

 

  1. Ray Wheeler Ph.D.

 

P.S.  I was inspired by this study to write words and music for an original hymn entitled As a Mother Loves Her Children.   I have posted the lyrics below.

 

Like a Mother Loves Her Children

Words and Music by

Dr. T. Ray Wheeler

                                                               

(Refrain)

Like a mother loves her children

Hold us close in loving arms

God will comfort and protect us

Keep us safe from all harm.

 

(Verse 1)

As we gather now for worship

In our hearts, we’re in one place

Make of each our homes a temple

Let us see Your loving face

 

(Refrain)

Like a mother loves her children

Hold us close in loving arms

God will comfort and protect us

Keep us safe from all harm.

 

(Verse 2)

Loving God, You see Your children

Cries for justice, cries for peace

Holy Spirit, sweep across us

Open hearts, let hatred cease

 

(Refrain)

Like a mother loves her children

Hold us close in loving arms

God will comfort and protect us

Keep us safe from all harm.

 

(Verse 3)

As we gather at the table

Holy feast to break and share

Though we shelter safe with loved ones

Bind us close in loving care

 

(Refrain)

Like a mother loves her children

Hold us close in loving arms

God will comfort and protect us

Keep us safe from all harm.