Motherhood and God (Janet Taylor)

There are wonderful images of God as a mother in the Bible: in Hosea 11:3-4 God describes himself as a mother helping a child to grow. Other Scriptures describe God as a mother bear, a mother eagle, a nursing mother, a woman in labour, and a mother hen.

One of my favourite passages comes from Isaiah 66:13. “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” And at no time was this passage more important to me than ten years ago.

My husband and I made frantic arrangements to get from Victoria to Winnipeg on a bright April day in 2011, after receiving a call from our son telling us that our eldest child, a daughter, had been hit by a car. “It’s bad,” he said bluntly. “You’d better get out here now.” By the time we touched down in Winnipeg at 9 pm that night, our son’s silent, tearstained face looking up to us as we descended the escalator told us we were too late. She had been removed from life support while we were in the air, at about 6 pm local time.

I would not wish the depth of grief and pain which followed upon my worst enemy, even were I in the habit of making such wishes. Christian grief counseling helped us heal, and I identified that one coil of my grief was wrapped around the idea that I had failed as a mother. Like most parents, I had committed to protecting my children at all costs. Yet it seemed when my daughter needed me most I believed I had failed. I was not there.

But God was. A woman bystander, who later said that an unexplainable compulsion came over her, ran out to my daughter and gently smoothed her cheek as she lay on the asphalt, surrounded by onlookers under the bright spring sun. Leaning in close, she whispered over and over, “It’s OK…I’m here…I won’t leave you,” the exact words I would have chanted had I been there. God, in his infinite compassion, provided a mother for my daughter, and, “as a mother comforts her child,” continued to hold me in his loving embrace while I healed and went through the difficult process of forgiving myself, accepting that my best-held intentions were still bound by human limitations, and eventually thanking God that his compassion and love know no boundaries of time or space.

Faith in God is not a shield which protects us from the pains and losses of human existence. But faith in the God who is not only the Father of creation but also the compassionate, loving Mother of his wounded children can hold us close when we stumble, when we are deeply wounded, or when we judge ourselves unworthy. The mothering images of God give us a special comfort and courage to face anew whatever comes into our lives. Whether our earthly mothers are saints or sinners, or like the rest of us are a complicated mix of both, our heavenly Father is also our creating Mother who protects, nurtures, guides and upholds us. For this, thanks be to God, and I pray you have a blessed Mother’s Day.

The Rev. Janet Taylor
Braeside Presbyterian Church, St. Albert, AB