On Mothers’ Day I ponder the fact that it took becoming a mother, 27 years ago, to teach me about God’s love.
I have always had trouble believing that God isn’t at worst angry, at best disappointed in me. I find it excruciatingly difficult to accept that God loves me no matter what.
There are all sorts of reasons for this; one of them the fact that when I was growing up, God was generally referred to in metaphors that were not only male, but intimidating.
‘Lord’, ‘King’ and ‘Judge’ were three of the favourites. And even the more benign ‘Father’ wasn’t always helpful for a generation where even the good dads weren’t around much.
As a young woman who was either pregnant or breastfeeding for almost ten years solid, I was thrilled to discover some feminine images of God, even in the ancient, fiercely patriarchal Bible. You have to really go looking for these, but the fact that they are there at all is remarkable.
One of the most beautiful is Isaiah 49, verse 15. ‘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. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.’ There was no way I was going to forget my kids. And God loved me, and all of us, more than this.
Among other Biblical images was this one from Acts 17, verse 28 that I dwelled upon through four pregnancies. ‘”For in God we live and move and have our being,” as even some of your own poets have said. “For we too are his offspring.”’
That description is surely that of a foetus in the womb – surrounded, protected, nurtured and supported by its mother, whether or not it knows it.
Or from Psalm 131: ‘But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother.’
Then there are the words ascribed to Jesus in Matthew 23, verse 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.”’
One Sunday I sat in church, breastfeeding my third baby as communion was offered to me with the words, ‘This is my body, broken for you.’ I was struck by the fact that my baby was feeding on me, and in a mysterious way, I was feeding on Christ.
In the communion service we talk of broken body and shed blood that gives life – something very familiar to any woman who has given birth.
Weaving these images of God through my life as a mother over quarter of a century, I begin to learn, little by little, that God loves me, and everybody, better than the best parent.