God as Mother

As Mothers’ Day approaches, I have been thinking of how God is portrayed in women’s hymnody.  In ages past, God had the traditional image of father and man.  Of course that is so limiting for a being beyond time and space that created all that is.  And a father image is only comforting to those who experienced a loving father here on earth.  Does the father image speak to those who were abused, abandoned, or neglected by a father or father figure?  Recently, some women have written from a mother point of view.  Shirley Erena Murray, born in 1931, wrote of God as mother in “Loving Spirit”.  She wrote of sharing in bearing and birthing in “Of Women, and of Women’s Hopes We Sing”.    But I see the biggest champion of portraying God as mother in the works of Ruth Duck, born in 1947.  She has contended with God metaphors in many ways, and for Mother’s Day, let’s look at examples of her mother imagery.  “Womb of Life, and Source of Being” almost speaks for itself.  We are children gathered into the arms of the source of being.  With God, we have a second birth.  In “Wash, O God, Your Sons and Daughters” she writes of us as newborn creatures of “your womb”.  We are nurtured by God’s milk.   All this may help, but somehow, any human imagery of God comes short.   A birthing womb is so . . . human.  It’s messy and uncomfortable.  Maybe that’s not a bad image after all.  Still, we seek to find the perfect way to name God, and never succeed, even if we remove the vowels.  And “it” is too inanimate for the greatest and only fully animate being.  As humans, we keep trying, though.

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