God Our Mother

Along the Way

by DeWayne L. Davis

Published May 12, 2023

God is our Mother as truly as he is our Father; and he showed this in everything, and especially, in the sweet words where he says ‘It is I,’ that is to say . . . ‘It is I: the wisdom of motherhood. It is I: the light and grace which is all blessed love’” —Julian of Norwich


When I call my mother on Mother’s Day, she will likely not recognize my voice. To spare her any embarrassment or to avoid pushing her to try to remember who I am, I will pretend to be one of many well-wishers calling a prominent matriarch in the community to celebrate her for being a mother to us all. Over the last few years, I have learned to suppress the impulse to call my mother when I have good news to share, when I’m feeling vulnerable, or when I want to hear her voice. Her health won’t allow it. And yet, there is so much cultural pressure to mark the day in some way, to assume that the observation and celebration of it is a universally shared and positive experience.


Unfortunately, the Hallmark version of Mother’s Day makes no room for the complexity and mix of emotions about mothers and motherhood. Many people are mourning the loss of their mothers, and there are mothers morning the loss of a child. Some are estranged from their mothers. Some never knew their mothers, growing up without them due to death or divorce. I’ve met many who desired to be mothers and couldn’t, and the day is a reminder of their loss, grief, and disappointment. Many others have mothered others lovingly and selflessly, only to never receive recognition as such. Because of this complexity, I have increasingly expanded my view of God to include maternal images, mining God’s infinite omnipresence to allow God to be for me, a mother. The ancient mystic Julian of Norwich saw God as a mother in her revelations, finding as much meaning in that image as in the more familiar image of God as a father.


While the Bible was written in a context in which the feminine was deprecated, the Hebrew Scriptures are replete with maternal images and metaphors that describe God’s relationship to God’s creation. The Apostle Paul accessed and adjusted those maternal imageries and metaphors of God’s love for Israel to explain his feelings toward the churches in his apostolic mission. He specifically drew upon the images and metaphors of the mother responsible for nurturing children into maturity, using affective characteristics such as gentleness, compassion, and tenderness associated with the maternal. On this Mother’s Day, I pray that we find our way to an understanding, observance, or recognition of the day and those we love from a place of healing and wholeness rather than the cultural dictates of the holiday. I hope you love and are loved in return. May it be so.