Mothers always deserve our love and celebration.¹ I’m not sure you heard, but mothers have their own special day. It’s called Mother’s Day because … well, you get it.
We put a lot of energy into celebrating moms and describing their attributes but there is one aspect of motherhood that we don’t mention very often: they are a reflection of God.
While we traditionally think of God as a masculine father-figure, biblical descriptions often reference God’s mother-like characteristics – labour pains and giving birth, as well as the searching, enfolding, protecting, and comforting of children. Jesus describes himself as a hen who longs to gather his people under his protective wings. In Proverbs, Wisdom is the feminine force that initiates and guides the world.
Even the biblical names for God reflect masculine, feminine, or neutral traits more often than we see in our English translations. For instance, the original creative Spirit of God in Genesis 1:2 (Ruah Elohim) is feminine; El Shaddai is often feminine; and Eloah gave birth to Israel. The familiar name Yahweh combines both masculine (yah) and feminine (weh) concepts. The biblical word for spirit is feminine or neutral, depending on the original language.
At any rate, I’m not trying to show that God is genderless but rather that motherhood is beautiful when it reflects the feminine characteristics of God.
I see you
But that doesn’t mean being a mother is easy – in fact, it is painful, exhausting and flawed, just like all worth while undertakings. God sees and understands mothers because they bear his image.
There is a story in the Bible about a woman named Hagar that I found quite boring when I was young. These days however, it takes on new meaning.
Hagar was the woman selected to give birth to a son fathered by Abram, one of the early heroes of scripture. But Hagar wasn’t a princess, a priestess, or a concubine – she was a powerless Egyptian slave girl who was owned by Abram’s jealous wife, Sarai. Her life became unbearable during her pregnancy and she was forced to run away from Sarai’s hatred.
Yet as the story proceeds, we learn that God saw her and reached out to her. That is when Hagar, the sad, powerless, pregnant, female slave became the first person to give God a name: El Roi – the God who sees me.
Moms are special because they do the difficult, painful, invisible work the rest of us don’t see.
Work so meaningful that God herself takes notice.
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¹ Each year on Mother’s Day I remind us all to be sensitive to the quiet sadness that can be felt by people around you. Please don’t make your celebration so loud that you trample on those who struggle on Mother’s Day:
- Children whose mothers have passed away – who still deeply feel the sting of loss years later;
- Mothers who have an unhealthy or dangerous relationship with a child who is rebellious or has addiction or mental health issues;
- Children who have an unhealthy or dangerous relationship with a mother who, as an adult, has addiction or mental health issues;
- Women who want to be mothers but are not able to be. Couples for whom pregnancy is an impossible dream and even adoption is expensive or elusive;
- And perhaps most difficult of all, some moms have simply lost their children: miscarriage, accident, illness, suicide.
On Mother’s Day we will celebrate beautiful and loving mothers in our lives; we will remember with joy and pride and love. But we will do it quietly and privately as a thankful family.