Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mother God

This morning I had a new, very exciting, experience. For the first time I can remember, I had the joy of participating in corporate worship specifically directed to God as our heavenly Mother as well as our heavenly Father. I have often privately prayed or sung to God as a mother, but this morning was my first time to sing to Mother God along with other people. It was exciting, touching, moving, and weird, all at the same time.

In our various types of Christian gatherings, we do an excellent job of celebrating and honoring God as our heavenly Father, and most of us could probably rattle off at least a dozen passages (even if we can't quote them exactly) that depict God as a Father. But we're not as good at celebrating the less common and less accepted metaphor of God as Mother. Yet there are a handful of biblical passages that do depict God that way. For example:
"For a long time I have kept silent,
   I have been quiet and held myself back.
But now, like a woman in childbirth,
   I cry out, I gasp and pant."
--Yahweh speaking in Isaiah 42:14

"As a mother comforts her child,
   so will I comfort you;
   and you will be comforted over Jerusalem."
--Yahweh speaking in Isaiah 66:13

"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing."
--Jesus speaking in Matthew 23:37
I appreciate the metaphor of God as our Mother, and I hope we will become more comfortable with using maternal language to describe God. There's certainly nothing wrong with the Father metaphor, but, as with all metaphors we use to try to understand and talk about God, it's incomplete and should not be used as the exclusive metaphor to describe God. Because when we limit God to just one image, we miss out on the vast array of other qualities that don't fit that particular image. For two excellent discussions on the language we use to describe God, check out this Metaphor, Idolatry, and Theology blog post by Jamey Walters and this Why Language for God Matters article by Naomi Walters.

Also, as a woman, it's sometimes easier to relate to a female image rather than a masculine image like King or Father, or an inanimate one like Rock or Shield. I will never be a dad, and I can't necessarily identify with how Fathers (or men) think and act. But I might someday be a mom, and I do know what it's like to think and feel and act as a woman. And speaking to and about God with female language helps me feel just a bit more like I actually am fully created in God's image.

So, this morning's experience was an exciting one, to first sing to God as Father, and to then sing to God as Mother. Hopefully my first time to do that corporately will not also be my last.


  1. It was strange and wonderful - as most of the forays into the all-of-Godness have been for me. God is so much MORE than we have traditionally expressed, and it's so freeing to see God as someone who cares for me as I care for my child, who looks on me like my mother looks on me. It's a new world of experience that is essential. Thanks for being courageous enough to make the suggestion!

  2. So glad you all got to do something like this. Thanks for sharing the experience with those of us who aren't there!

  3. Mollie, amen. Jamey, you're welcome!