During a recent children’s sermon, our pastor asked a dozen elementary students: “What do you like best about your mom?” Their comments brought down the house! We heard how their mom, “put the head back on my Ninjago;” “scared away the monster under my bed;” “put my brother in timeout for hitting me;” “made my favorite cake for my birthday.” Jumping in, our pastor then said, “That is how God loves each of you. God is near when you’re frightened, or ill or afraid. God is always ready to listen to you and help you.”
Our children seemed convinced that God loves us like a mother, but the rest of us hesitated. How often do we consciously remind ourselves of God’s nearness and intimate attentiveness to our hopes and fears? Or that God is above gender yet inclusive of all gender—the source of what is true and good in humankind? That God created both male and female in God’s image, and that God’s fullness can only be expressed and fully appreciated in the fullness of genders, which God declared, is very good (Genesis 1:27, 31). While Mother’s Day can be painful for the childless and motherless alike, as well as the socially isolated, everyone can be comforted by God’s love.
Like a mother, God patiently suffers beside us in our fears and failures, nurtures our hopes and sustains us through every trial. That is why Mother’s Day is not only a time to give thanks for our earthly mothers, but also to remember that our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, like a cheek-to-cheek mother, knows us intimately and willingly suffers any cost to comfort, strengthen and guide us.
While Scripture teaches that God is Spirit (John 4:25) and warns against creating earthly images of God (Exodus 20:4), it also teaches that “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15-21). Christ cooked for the disciples (John 21:9); washed their feet (John 13:8); healed the ill (Luke 8:40-48); and wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). Despite the disapproval of his disciples, Christ also honored mothers and women by welcoming them as disciples, inviting them to sit at his feet and learn from Him—a privilege that was previously reserved for men only (Luke 10:38-42). Christ prepared women as evangelists and proclaimers of the Good News (John 20:17). And when a woman was caught in adultery, Jesus invited those without sin to cast the first stone (John 8:1-11). Women’s dignity and leadership was implicit in Christ’s teachings, practices and in his challenges to the marginalization of women.
Elevating mothers and women, Christ used motherly metaphors to illustrate and amplify God’s nearness, providence and tenacious protection. In warning against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, Jesus displayed a mother’s heart that longingly protects her children, but wisely allows them free choices despite the pain God suffers when they choose unwisely. Like a mother, God cried out: “‘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,” (Matt. 23:37b).
Just as the father waited for his prodigal son, God also searches for us, God’s lost sheep, like the woman who lost a priceless coin. Unwilling to rest, she lights her lamp and furiously sweeps the house, searching in every corner until she finds her lost treasure. And, just like the father who celebrates when his prodigal son returns home, the woman also delights when she finds her priceless coin. She “calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents,” (Matthew 23: 9-10).
God’s work is inseparable from the hands and feet of mothers, and of the women who proactively proclaim the gospel in word and deed. Because Scripture speaks of God in both fatherly and motherly terms, we recognize that both qualities are necessary to strengthen our lives and nurture our souls. In remembering our mothers, we celebrate God who created women and mothers, and loves us like a mother. God’s motherly love is always ready to fight to the end, rather than be separated from her own flesh, just as a mother bear protects her cubs (Hosea 13:8).
On Mother’s Day we take comfort in knowing that, whatever our failures, hopes or fears, like a mother, God will move heaven and earth to reach us, heal us, lead us and comfort us.
God, thank you for loving me, and all of us, also as a mother.
Dr. Mimi Haddad is president of CBE International. She is a graduate of the University of Colorado and Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (Summa Cum Laude). She holds a PhD in historical theology from the University of Durham, England.