This weekend I’m attending a baby shower for my daughter, Michaelanne, who will give birth in June. We’ll also be celebrating Mother’s Day together. I’m excited but I’m also ambivalent.

My child is entering the world of parenting from which there is no return. She has the opportunity to experience amazing joy and heartbreaking pain. She can choose to stay alive to the agony of a broken world (which we experience daily as mothers) as well as live with the sure hope of rescue (which often takes a long time in coming). It’s a tension many choose not to engage. I wrestle with it daily. I know she will too, especially as a mother.

Our hearts ache for our kids when they suffer. We fiercely try to protect them from harm. We nurture them, comfort them, feed, teach, hold and heal them. We rejoice with them. And we weep over them. Do those words not remind us of another One, of a God who also mothers us?

Scripture is rich with imagery that portrays God with motherly attributes. Consider passages such as Isaiah 42:14, of a woman in labor, or Numbers 11:12, of a mother nursing her children. Isaiah 49:14-15 promises that even if a mother does forget the child she nurses, He will not forget. In Isaiah 46:3-4, God says he has carried his people since before their birth.

One of my favorite verses in Hosea depicts God performing activities that in the ancient Near East were primarily done by mothers. “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 cords of human kindness, with ties of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.” – Hosea 11:3-4

In the United States, Mother’s Day is an occasion for retail stores to make money. And I say, spend with abandon on the women in your life. Why? Not because they are great mothers or horrible mothers. But because of whom they reflect. Whether we have physically borne children or not, all women bear the imprint of being uniquely female, distinctively like God in a way that men are not. Not better, not worse, but different. We represent an aspect of God to our world that is lost when we hide, diminish, or demean our femaleness and our motherliness. All women, whether they are aware of it or not, reflect this image of God to their world.

So I say to you and to my ambivalent self, celebrate not just mothers, but the God in whose image we are made! Rejoice in what God has made and what God has declared good, very good!


*Art by Henry Matisse