Dear Family in Christ,
My late mother was everything a mother should be—loving, caring, watchful, protective—until I reached adolescence and started having opinions of my own. From that point on she was incapable of releasing me to make my own decisions, and our adult relationship was difficult. Our society’s ritual of selecting Mother’s Day cards put me in an annual moral dilemma. I could spend an hour searching through the card selection at Target or CVS trying to find a message that didn’t make a liar out of me. “The best mother in the world” and “You were always there for me” just didn’t cut it. One year I sent her flowers instead, and she refused delivery. Sometime during my youth, I discovered I was better off relying on God for my motherly nurturing.
My mother and I never abandoned our relationship, as difficult as it was. Near the end of her long life it became necessary for me to mother her, but along the way I found others who lovingly nurtured me. Older and more experienced friends gently coached me how to be a wise mother to my own children, and members of the church taught us all by example how to hold one another close and to let go when appropriate.
But the one who has constantly held me and truly mothered me from my birth has been God. Scripture, Christian tradition, and our own experience teach us that God’s love, comfort, and care know no bounds. In Isaiah 66:13, the Lord tells Jerusalem, “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.” Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem illustrates a mother’s concern as he says, “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.” (Luke 13:34 and Matt. 23:37) Early Christian mystics speak of the maternal nature of God. Julian of Norwich describes God as both Father and Mother: “As truly as God is our Father, so truly is God our Mother.” Anselm of Canterbury describes Christ as “the great Mother” who comforts the frightened with gentleness. And every recent pope since John Paul I has made some reference to the value of understanding God as a mother.
We are God’s children, and God knows how to protect us, where to correct us, how to guide us, and when to let us learn from mistakes. God wants us to explore and learn and love, and God is always there to kiss our booboos and put bandaids on our knees when we fall off our bikes. Give thanks to God—the source and embodiment of motherhood!