The Mother-Love of God

When my grandfather was a grown man, he experienced a toothache so painful that he tried to climb into his mother’s lap. While that wouldn’t have made the pain go away, he knew that it would bring him another sort of comfort. It seems we never completely lose the desire to be embraced by a mother’s love.

My grandfather had grown too big for climbing into laps. Sometimes, we have the same problem seeking comfort from God. Our thoughts concern our problems – how to fix them or avoid them. Psalm 131 can teach us another way.

It bears King David’s name, and we know him as a man of action but not in this poem. This psalm appears in the middle of the Psalms of Ascent, the songs of a long pilgrimage toward Zion. In the midst of the journey, we may need to stop and rest as David did. We could imagine him alone in the wilderness, done with fighting and fleeing, seeking only the peace of God’s company.  To that end he writes of a return to dependence, a return to stillness, a return to childhood.

In distressing circumstances adults tend to cast about anxiously for a solution or look for someone else to blame. Psalm 131:1 teaches us to set aside these prideful thoughts, acknowledging that solutions are beyond us and that we are as fallen as the next sinner. A child is content to simply be held. A “weaned child,” as described in verse 2, might be three or four years old, still small but also independent. Such a child would no longer cry and look for milk from her mother’s breast, but she would be satisfied with the warmth of her arms and the protection of her presence as she sings her baby to sleep. That is the aspect of God which David wants us to experience, the encircling, restful and gentle mother-love of God.

We can only experience that stillness if we deliberately set aside the cares of the day and our attempts to fix them. We can only do that in a quiet space where nothing else intrudes. We can only do that when God alone is all we want, not the things He might give us. The Lord of the universe gave us birth and nurture and sustenance. He proved His incredible love for us once and for all on the cross. He has all the time in the world to sit and hold us in His arms. Let us not wait until pain finally drives us there. Climb up into His lap in humble dependence and enjoy His love today.


Questions:

  1. What present circumstance makes you most long for a mother’s loving comfort?
  2. Take five minutes right now to meditate on this psalm. Try to sit quietly in God’s lap, resting in His arms and His love. If you find yourself climbing down again, don’t be frustrated; just notice it, and go back to sit with Him a little longer.

This post was first published in 2013.

Filling Our Mother-Shaped Holes

Im TragetuchMany church-going dads get a little tense around the middle of June when they realize Father’s Day is just around the corner. It’s become common practice for pastors and bloggers to challenge men to step up to their responsibilities and to bandage the wounds of those with absent or failing fathers. At some point you’ve probably heard a sermon about the ways our heavenly Father’s love can fill the holes left in our hearts by earthly dads. While we do have a crisis of fatherhood today, it is equally fair to say that there has never lived a mother who perfectly performed her own God-given role. Whether the product of sin and neglect or the unwitting victim of good intentions, many of us carry mom-shaped holes in our hearts, too. So in honor of Mother’s Day this Sunday, I want to highlight some characteristics of the mother-love of God which is also necessary for filling up hollow humans.

Nativity. Job 38:29, John 3:4-7. God brings forth creation the way a mother brings forth a child from her own body. The unique ability to bear a son or daughter is a painful gift which keeps on giving throughout our lifetime and pictures for us the self-sacrificing grace of God’s willingness to continually bring forth life in this broken world. Even more astounding is the second delivery, ushering God’s children into His spiritual Kingdom where they will finally become all that He birthed them to be. If you never lived up to your mother’s expectations or she failed to dream of a beautiful you, don’t give up. God’s love is making you new.

Comfort. Is. 66:13. What could be warmer than the comfort of a tender mother? Where fathers impart strength and teach us to shake off our wounds, mothers kiss and console. This is the comfort of our God whose “everlasting arms” are ever-ready to receive our tears and embrace us in our grief.

Immanence. Is. 49:15. While men have traditionally shown us the transcendence of God, traveling far afield to make a living or a conquest for their families, mothers demonstrate the constant presence of the Lord in our lives. As the mother of two grown children, I can tell you that they are never far from my thoughts even when they are far from my hands. God is vast enough to surround us with both His hands and His thoughts at all times and places.  Run to Him.

Quietness and Trust. Ps. 131. When my father didn’t know what to do with us, he would wrestle or tickle or find a job for us to do. It’s a mother’s instinct to gather her children in, to quiet them for bed, to settle them with a story, to calm them with a hug when the world gets too big. Our God has a still, small voice that He uses to soothe His little ones, a whisper which can overcome the raging wind outside. While there must be trust in risk-taking and active pursuits, our trust in God is honed as we rest in His lap, basking in His mother-love.

Sustenance. I Peter 2:2, 3. Only a mother can feed her child from her own body. That beautiful act is used as a metaphor in the New Testament for the life-giving food of the word of God which proceeds from God Himself. We drink from His bounty, and we grow strong as a result, maturing from mother’s milk to stronger meat. There are many mothers in Scripture who fed their children on the wisdom of our faith, but if yours did not, it’s never too late to find that guidance in other Christians and in the sustaining wisdom of God’s loving Spirit.

Protection – Luke 13:34, Ps. 91:4. A father’s protection looks like an army charging out to meet the enemy. But a mother’s protection looks like a hen gathering her chicks before the storm. In God we find both kinds of safety. Whether you need someone to storm the gate for you or you just want to hide your face in your mother’s skirt, in God you are never abandoned, unparented, unheard, or unprotected.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:27, NIV) We need both a mother and a father to show us the full range of God’s love. It’s a wonderful privilege to look to Him as a model for our own parenting, yet, there is no human family which can truly impart His wholeness. As you turn toward God our Father for all that you may have missed in your own upbringing, may you be richly blessed this Mother’s Day with the Lord’s own mother-love poured out for you.