Mother’s Day can be rough. If you’re childless but not by choice, if you recently lost your mom, if you have ever lost a child, Mother’s Day can simply hurt. If you’re in a mothering role, maybe for someone else’s child, it’s a day of conflicted emotion. A friend of mine is a foster mom with a very complicated situation, making Mother’s Day a tangly mess of joy and pain for both her and the kids. Sometimes, we have broken parts, missing pieces, jagged edges on Mother’s Day. We need someone to glue us back together, to hold and nurture and mend us.
On this, my first Mother’s Day in an empty nest, thousands of miles away from both my kids and my own mom, I reflected on being a mother, and also a daughter who was and still is mothered lovingly (thanks, Mom). But I also was reminded that I am a child who needs to still be mothered by God.
I am thankful to be a mother,
and for my mother,
and also thankful for the mothering God gives to me.
For years, I nurtured my children, preparing them for eventual independence, but still, taking care of them by meeting daily physical and emotional needs. Now, though I’m still coaching from the sidelines, they are running their own race. I’m their mom and always will be but the way I show my love and protection has shifted as they have grown.
The season of crayoned construction paper cards and dandelion bouquets is past, but I’m embracing this new season of mothering. Which means the cards come in the form of social media posts and text messages, sometimes.
My son tagged me in an Instagram post of this silly selfie of the two of us to wish me a happy Mother’s Day (which I loved), then later called to chat. When prompted by my husband to give me some affirming words, he said he appreciates that I even know what Instagram is, and how to use it.
My daughter is working in the back country near the Ansel Adams Wilderness and Yosemite National Park (which makes me so proud I can hardly stand it) this week and is out of cell phone range.
Freed, whether I like it or not, from the daily work of certain mothering tasks, I at first felt unmoored. But there is a gift hidden here in this empty (or, more accurately, spacious) nest: freedom, for one. But freedom for what?
Self-sufficiency is my trademark, in many ways. But in this season where I’ve shifted my role as a mom, I’m realizing it is okay to let God nurture me. Not just okay. Necessary. What if I have, in this season, the freedom to embrace and receive the mothering God offers my soul?
I was particularly grateful this Mother’s Day for a small gathering Sunday night at church, where we sing, practice, learn, and share the Eucharist. Called The Practice, it’s a small tribe in a big church, a place where I feel at home and connected.
This week, in honor of Mother’s Day, the liturgy celebrated the mothering images of God. We affirmed that God is Spirit and does not have a gender. No single metaphor is adequate (maybe that’s why Jesus used so many different parables to describe the Kingdom). “We often focus on the masculine likeness of God as Father, which is absolutely true,” one of the leaders read from our program. “And yet tonight, in light of Mother’s Day, we want to honor the divine mothering images of God.”
The service included readings from both men and women, and an excellent sermon from Lynne Hybels, a global peace advocate and co-founder of our church.
The Bible is full of images and metaphors, to try to give us a glimpse of God’s character, the ways in which God loves us. God loves us like a father, but also like a mother.
We sang a beautiful refrain, the first two verses of which said:
God our Father
Giver of daily bread
Blessing our hands and covering our heads
God our Mother
Leading us into peace
Drawing and comforting all those in need
Hallowed, hallowed be thy name…
(Here’s a link to listen to God Our Mother, by The Liturgists)
Truth? I grew up in a tradition that would find this whole idea dangerous, dancing on the edge of heresy. And yet, the text is clear: the images of God as mother are there, often in the same verse where we find images of God as Father.
The mothering images of God are sometimes like hidden gems. In Deuteronomy 32, which is full of masculine pronouns for God, verse 18 suddenly says, “You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.”
Should the idea of God giving birth surprise us? No. The image of God, in which we are created, is, as it says in Genesis 1, “male and female.” And God was the life-giver. Mothers give life, and then protect it. They gather us and hold us, they mend things that are broken, like our hearts.
In the lovely Mother’s Day celebration at The Practice, we reflected on how Scripture uses the images of the womb, of mothering nurture, of motherhood, to reveal facets of God’s character. God is gentle, compassionate, protective: all motherly traits.
What mothering aspect of God is dear to you? What mothering do you need to receive from God today? What broken pieces do you need God your Mother to mend and hold together?