Mother, an Image of God

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, yes, but also the image of mother is used to speak of God. On this Mother’s Day, reflections on God as mother.

God watched his people suffer the consequences of their sin in Babylonian captivity. Time came when God could no longer wait. He would deliver his people. Image of this divine deliverance is that of a woman in labor and giving birth. God speaks. “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” (Isaiah 42:14).

I still remember, best I can as a man, watching my wife bearing our children and giving birth. She experienced the body changes, the anxiousness, especially near the end. Birth, seeing her experience the pain, the exhaustion, and the exhilaration. I remember her growing in a connection with and in love with the baby in her womb. How her love grew, reaching the point of wanting to give birth, to hold the baby in her arms. Hers was the love of a mother, giving herself unselfishly and compassionately to her child.

This picture of God, like a mother in labor, we see God’s heart. We see God’s love for his creation, his love for humankind, a self giving love.

“He chose to give us birth through the word of truth” (James 1:18 NIV84). God’s love, like a woman bearing and giving birth to her child. God was willing to experience the work, the pain, the exhaustion, the risk, of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, to give us birth, new birth in Jesus Christ. Like a mother, what exhilarating joy is God’s in giving us new birth in Christ.

“And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them” (Isaiah 42:16). 

Image changes somewhat. I still picture the image of a mother. Her newborn child knows nothing of life. The child is dependent on the mother for nurturing and learning. Mother leads and guides her child through the treacherous waters of growing up. She leads and teaches her child along the unfamiliar paths of every new experience.

So it is with God toward his children. He nurtures us. He guides us. He leads and teaches us. The darkness he turns into light. The rough places of life he smooths, making them easier to navigate. He nourishes, giving us strength. Like a mother he never forsakes us. His love is faithful, always with us. God gives us the assurance of his love. He never forgets us. “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you” (Isaiah 49:15).

Weeping over Jerusalem, over his people, Jesus cried out. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37). Through the prophet we once again hear God. “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you” (Isaiah 66:15).

A mother protects her children. She has a sixth sense. Hers is an awareness knowing what is going on in the lives of her children. She is there, present. Always she is ready to hold, to comfort, to give first aid, to defend, to discipline. Her children are her heart. So it is with God toward his children. Mother, the image of God.

Personally I was blessed to have such a mother in whom I saw the image of God. I believe my children have such a mother. Grateful am I that my grandchildren have such mothers.

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