Yesterday as part of our Mother’s Day service, our Worship Connect kids read their own litany on how their moms remind them of God. Like God, their moms persevere and never give up; they give them food, shelter, and love; they fill them with good things so they could “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). Then the children gave out organic raisins for the whole congregation to share, so we too could taste and see that the Lord is good.
I loved their presentation, and it started me thinking again about how God is described in female terms in the Bible.
I once preached a sermon on how Scripture uses masculine, gender-neutral, and feminine imagery to talk about God. God is the father waiting for his prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). God is the mother who comforts us (Isaiah 66:13). God is the Rock that never changes (Psalm 18:2). Too patriarchal? Too traditional? Too feminist? Too impersonal? Like it or not, all of these and more are in the Bible. Humanly speaking, there is enough in Scripture to challenge all of us.
We may be uneasy about God as Father or Mother or Rock. But instead of mentally crossing out anything that disturbs us, we need to allow the different images of God in Scripture to challenge us, to correct us, to shape and expand our relationship with God. Says Kristina LaCelle-Peterson (cited in Recovering Discarded Images):
God’s nature is too immense to be captured by one image and our disparate life situations too varied to be tapped by one metaphor.
With that in mind, and inspired by our Worship Connect kids, below is a brief survey of Scripture that uses female imagery to describe God.
God created humanity male and female (Genesis 1:27):
God created humanity in God’s own image,
in the divine image God created them,
male and female God created them.
God as mother eagle (Deuteronomy 32:11-12):
As an eagle stirs up its nest,
and hovers over its young;
as it spreads its wings, takes them up,
and bears them aloft on its pinions,
the Lord alone guided him;
no foreign god was with him.
God as midwife (Psalm 22:9-10):
Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
On you I was cast from my birth,
and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
God as the mistress of a household (Psalm 123:2-3, paired with masculine imagery of God as the master of the household):
As the eyes of servants
look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maid
to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
until he has mercy upon us.
God as a mother giving birth to creation (Job 38:28-29, paired with God as father):
Has the rain a father,
or who has begotten the drops of dew?
From whose womb did the ice come forth,
and who has given birth to the hoarfrost of heaven?
God as a woman in labour (Isaiah 42:14):
For a long time I have held my peace,
I have kept still and restrained myself;
now I will cry out like a woman in labor,
I will gasp and pant.
God as a mother comforting her child (Isaiah 66:13, cf., Isaiah 49:15):
As a mother comforts her child,
so I will comfort you;
you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.
God as a mother caring for her children (Hosea 11:3-4):
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk;
I took them up in my arms,
but they did not know that I healed them.
I led them
with bands of human kindness,
with cords of love.
I treated them like those
who lift infants to their cheeks;
I bent down to them and fed them.
God as fierce mother bear (Hosea 13:8)
I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs,
and will tear open the covering of their heart
God as a woman baking bread (Matthew 13:33):
He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
Jesus as a mother hen caring for Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37, Luke 13:34)
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
God as a woman searching for her lost coin (Luke 15:8-10 along with the shepherd looking for a lost sheep and the father watching for his lost son in the same chapter):
Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
Jesus using birth imagery in speaking with Nicodemus (John 3:3):
Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.
God as nursing mother (1 Peter 2:2-3):
Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation– if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Writing/Reflection Prompt: What am I missing in this survey? In what ways are you drawn to these texts, and where do you struggle?
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10 thoughts on “Mother’s Day Revisited and How God is Like Your Mom”
Genesis 3: 20-21 God as seamstress: The man named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all who live. And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them.
I guess along with God as seamstress is Psalm 139:13: being knit together in our mother’s womb. Thank you April!
GREAT additions – God as seamstress and knitter, thank you!
Thank you for this summary, April. It’s very helpful and I’ll save it so I can refer to it when I need to. So good that God is our nurturing mother as well as our loving father.
I’m glad this is helpful, and please keep an eye on the comments for any additions. I love God as seamstress (Genesis 3:20-21) and knitter (Psalm 139:13) added above. While men can and do sew and knit too, these activities were more often associated with women so they make sense for this survey too.
Too neat. I think you’d like my Mother’s Day sermon yesterday at Ross Road. I will send you the link when it goes online. This theme poured out over me for months since February like someone forgot to shut off the garden hose. My garden was wonderfully nourished with God reminding me of his nourishing love and protective heart. 🙂 – Merri Ellen G
Hi Merri Ellen – thanks for your comment and for sending the link that I’ll post here for others too: http://www.rossroadcc.ca/media/2015-05-08-god-our-almighty-nurturer-and-protector I haven’t had a chance to look at this yet, but I already love the title, God, Our Almighty Nurturer and Protector. “Nurturing” is both tender AND powerful.
Thanks April. 🙂 May it bless more and more on the nurturing and protecting heart of our God!
What a great list! My favourite is the new birth; there is no birth without a mother! I am also reminded that the word for Spirit in Hebrew is in the feminine gender (neuter in Greek), and so the Spirit also helps us to fill out further our picture of God.
Yes! Thank you for adding the richness of the biblical languages to this. Very helpful for us even to catch a glimpse of God’s greatness.