In Praise of a Mothering God

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Created in God’s image we sit here together to give thanks for the greatest of blessings. Created in God’s image we have been shaped and formed by those who have been birthed through us, been born of us.  It seems to me that often we mistake mother’s day as being a day that celebrates those capable of birthing children but this is not so. Today we celebrate our inclusion in the mothering work of God. We celebrate that our hearts have been torn open and made tender. We celebrate that we can no longer dwell in the self-centered concern of adolescence or preteen years but that now our hearts and our minds, our very souls have been stretched like weary childbearing bodies to include a fierce and passionate love, a love that is deep and enduring, that changes us, that changes everything.

That we can be so unseated, so knocked off balance by this love is the miracle of motherhood. It is not that we must ourselves bear and carry a child but that we must ourselves allow our hearts and minds to be broken open, to be torn asunder by this love and by the knowledge that it is not safe. It is to remain open and vulnerable to the love of one’s child knowing we cannot keep them safe from the world and we cannot make their choices. It is to remain open and vulnerable knowing that our children must walk their own path, make their own mistakes and find their own way. It is the keeping of our hearts as the open and safe place to which they can return when life has left them bruised and things become uncertain. It is not the easy provision of answers but the uneasy provision of space in our already full and often fearful hearts, the caring without certainty. This is motherhood and this is the love that God, the mothering God of scripture, gives us.

Motherhood is less about bearing and childbirth, although these are tender and sacred things, than about the waiting and the hoping, the longing and the caring. It is to spend hours wondering how one might help one’s child without intruding. It is about listening for the door to open and hearing those glorious words, “Mom! I’m home!” It is about honoring the tears and the pain of one’s child and bearing that pain with them rather than intervening. It is about the waiting through endless days, months, even years to see their hearts open and blossom with the kindness and tenderness that we saw in them as children years ago. To see them become more than they can begin to believe in. This is motherhood. It is to see our children grow into their tall, strong, bodies, their independent, seeking minds, their questing, adventerous spirits, and to know that there is more. It is to hope and to know, to wait longingly, till love infects them too and carries them into their own soul searching, heartrending journey into the heart of the mothering God.

Mothering is to be given a glimpse into the very heart of God. To know, to experience,  how power can be given up, surrendered willingly to make space for one who is loved beyond words. It is to know what it means to make oneself completely vulnerable as God has made God’s self vulnerable to us, to be changed and transformed by love. It is to know that all that we are and are not, all that we say and do, has incredible impact on those we love most and it is to be humbled by our inadequacy to this task. It is to know that at some point we must surrender our role as mother to the mothering God, to the one who is up to the task and who will not fail our children but who can meet their every need. And it is to know that we can mother only because God has our back and that the end is secure. It is the love of our mothering God for us that allows us to embrace every moment in its tender fragility and its passing temporality. We love because God has first loved us. We are mothers because God has mothered us and has shown us the way. Mothering is not simply a physical thing or a genetic thing, although these may play a part for some people, it is about loving another so wholly and completely that we give our whole selves to the task and that we allow them to have their own journey. It is to allow another to play with our heartstrings and to know that with the grace of God it will be the sweetest melody we have ever been a part of.