On mother love…

I know mothers day isn’t easy for anyone, it can be full of ache, grief and sadness. It can be full of disappointment at the lack of children, the pain of loss of mothers or children, the desire to be honoured well as a mother and the feeling of not being celebrated or seen in your mothering. It’s a whole lot of strange. It might be just to raw to think about, in which case ignore this post. But I think I wanted to find myself in the mother heart of God, to receive mother love and care myself as I ponder what it means to be mother and in other mother type relationships. 

Back in the early 90s I grew up going to a big Anglican Church in the heart of Guildford, my Mum worked for a charity called the Amos Trust and the man behind that charity went to our church, Garth Hewitt. There is a small subsection of English Christians who will know Garth, big on the Greenbelt scene and with a deep heart for justice. I think it was him and his songs which helped give me a context for life beyond white middle class Guildford. He was also slightly ahead of the game when it came to different expressions of spirituality and ways of experiencing the divine.

I remember when his album with the song ‘we need your mother love O God’ came into our house. It was probably the first time anyone had highlighted the need to look at the divine feminine (and was a super low key way of introducing that concept..). I wasn’t sure though, was this phrase allowed? God had always been described to me in terms of father, male, and, lets face it, the old man with a beard was never far from my mind when it came to images of God.

I knew those passages were there though, the ones where God said as a mother can’t forget the child at her breast, I cannot forget you. I knew about the mother hen gathering chicks. I stored away the thought, not quite able to deal with why this talk of the mother love of God still jarred with me. 

Looking back I think I absorbed the negative talk of our society about mothers. Nowhere were mothers honoured or used as a metaphor for good and wonderful. To ‘mother’ someone was almost a derogatory phrase, used to dismiss and scorn. I grew up in a world where women were fighting to be seen as more than just mothers (which I wholeheartedly agree with) and somewhere along the way I had taken the mother part as a negative, a thing to get past.  

And then I became a mother. 

Which is a phrase that I know is a privilege, an ache for some, an area which causes pain and trauma because of the past or lack of future. I didn’t expect it to happen. I had felt the pang for children before I found anyone to have them with. I was convinced I could never be attractive to someone who I could make babies with so I parked the thought. I hadn’t envisioned a life with kids in it, I wasn’t prepared and I was left with a sense of disorientation when my son was born. Who was I now? And what positive images could I cling to about being a mother? If the societal voice I heard was dismissive, where could I find what it really meant to be a mother?

And that’s when I came back to this phrase from the song I’d heard growing up. ‘We need your mother love O God’. I found the mother images of God, I clung to them in the long dark nights of feeding and desperate prayers for sleep. I clung to this God who would not forget me, who was fierce in love for me, who was awake in the night when I was, who adored me with the intensity that I adored this little face staring up at me.

I want to reclaim this mother heart of God, I want to lean into this image, to see God’s mothering of us bringing worth and dignity into the ways we mother each other (which is deeply profound when it occurs both within and beyond biology).  I want it to be a positive image in our relationships with those younger than us or in particular need of a mother kind of love. 

I want mothering someone to be equated with providing safety, comfort in the storms of life, a place to run to for shelter, a place where you know you will never be forgotten or alone, a place where we know we are always carried in the heart of the God who made us and formed us.

When my first son was born I could not get his face out of my head, when I went anywhere without him I felt a lack. I still feel that something is missing when I am on my own (Don’t get me wrong, I very much enjoy that aloneness but I always know there are two small people out in the world because I carried them and birthed them and I feel different without them close). I love that this God of the universe puts herself in that place, of vulnerability, of connection, of love.

I’m slowly working this image into how I see God, into how I experience God. I like to imagine God as male and female, as other and beyond, as tender and close, as many and varied images, I love the richness of all the different expressions of God. I get that parental images will not be helpful for many people, but for me, as a mother in this world, this mothering nature of God speaks deeply. I long to dive into it, to swim in the richness and wrap it around me like a cloak. I too often run from that part of me and yet it is at the heart of who I am. I am a mother to our boys, God’s mothering looks like fierce protection, deep compassion, never giving up love and more. I want to be a mother like that.

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