Sunday, July 29

Motherhood and God on a Sunday.

This is a religious post. Skip it if that's not your thang.

Thinking about motherhood because this morning I went upstairs to the playroom, one part of the house where there is semi-reliable wifi, and it was a disaster area full of toys. Toys scattered everywhere. And there in the middle of this huge mess, one of the girls, I strongly suspect the 3 yo, had turned a box upside down and put down a doll pillow and placed two baby dolls down, heads on the pillow, and covered them with a brand new dishcloth, flat and neat and the baby dolls were tucked in so carefully and lovingly amidst the mess. I thought, she gets that from me.

I remember when my firstborn was two days old. My teenage stepdaughter and a friend visited us in the hospital (I’m a c-section mom so I get three whole days) . The friend held my two day old son and he started to fuss. I said, well, if he’s going to cry I will hold him, no point in your putting up with that, I’m his mother, it’s my job. The instant I held him he stopped fussing. All he wanted was Mom.

One thing that astonished me about new motherhood was how instantly and intensely all of us moms know our baby’s individual cry. At day care or the church nursery there can be five babies and five moms outside the door and if one baby starts to cry one of the five moms instantly knows “that’s mine” and the other four know that it’s not theirs.

I wish I had an elegant way to tie all of this to the Motherhood of God. I like to think of God as a mother in her kitchen, wearing a big apron with pockets full of blessings, but not taking any guff and always ready with a correcting look or even a quick spank to get our attention when we’re really pushing it. Our angry older brother, Richard Dawkins, writes a whole book about how Mother doesn’t really exist and is a delusion and Mother looks over his shoulder and says, that’s very nice dear now eat your breakfast. And when one of us cries she is right on the other side of the door and her ears perk up and she says, that’s mine, I might as well hold her, no point in anyone else putting up with that, I’m the mother, it’s my job. And when life is a complete mess and there seems no order to anything, in the midst of all that, love is there. That’s easy for me to type on a laptop in the middle of a nice park….I’m not lying naked and cold in some Iraqi orphanage. I try, though, to see that awful suffering as a lesson for US rather than for God. A sermon once told me that Jesus’ statement “the poor you always have with you” is an accusation, rather than a resignation.

As far as personal faith is concerned, I think it's like art and pornography. You know it when you see it. And when you're fussy and the world's not right, and all of a sudden it's the divine Mom that's holding you, you know it.


  1. My conception of God has changed considerably since I was a boy. As a boy, I thought of God in the conventional fashion: an old man with a fluffy white beard up in the clouds watching over everyone and everything.

    As a teenager, I rebelled against Christianity and became a Unitarian. Yet, I always remained a theist. God clung, as Robert Fulghum says, like a burr to my mental socks. I never seriously entertained any notion of atheism as so many of my friends did. Atheism seemed to be a self-defeating principle, full of people with major issues regarding trust.

    Though I may be not be lots of things: patient, impartial, humble--I have always been trusting. And I have always known in my heart of hearts that there was something up there. I don't believe because I feel powerless or unworthy--I believe because I've always known I was finite. It gives me comfort to know there is a God who supersedes time and space and is eternal.

    I don't know how better to explain it. I could have taken the easy way out and said that God just makes sense to me. That it feels right somehow. I never became an atheist because I know I'll never be the one who totally calls the shots. And yet that isn't a disquieting thought. It's a very comforting thought. I think it would be unrealistic to think otherwise.

  2. I always said my favorite view of God was one that someone said a long time ago when I was in religious school and that was God is a big smiley face up in the sky.

    I also really like your view of God, BG. I think the mother idea is so crucial and interesting. I have always thought of God as exhibiting both masculine and feminine qualities, so why God is always referred to as the father seemed wrong. God to me is both the father and the mother. I also love your thoughts on Dawkins, that is I guess how I thought about it without realizing it. God is there just accepting the thoughts of the atheist and saying that is nice. God does not rely on us to exist, I truly believe that God or Brahma or whatever name you want to give to the unknown is there whether you believe or not. But I also believe that God is not encouraging the fundamentalists either, God simply looks at how you treat others and that is how you are judged. As was said by Hillel, "Do not do unto others as you would not have done unto you." I am using Hillel's version versus the Golden Rule as I believe there is a subtle difference between the two that is crucial.

  3. 'A sermon once told me that Jesus’ statement “the poor you always have with you” is an accusation, rather than a resignation.'

    Excellent, excellent sermon, for that quote alone. Puts me in mind of Isaiah 49:15, wherein the author, seeking to explain the vastness of God's love, uses as the highest example a mother's love for her child.

  4. It doesn't happen often but every once in a while I read something some follower of a more conventional religion than mine has to say about God and I feel kinship. To me, not only is Mother God always ready with a hug, a swat, or a cookie as appropriate (and let us not forget the spiritual bowl of soup, the extra blanket, or the aspirin as needed) but she is always ready to listen and if you get over the "can't see her, can't hear her" thing, and learn to listen to her manner of communication, always willing to give good advice. Father God is always there, too, but I hold Mother (and Grandmother) God in a special place in my heart.

    Blessings for you and for your lovely child.

  5. I'm a non-believer who appreciated your post immensely.

    Just thought I'd let you know.


  6. great post, great comments. i almost skipped this post but quickly realized that it was also about being a mommy, not just a religious post. i'm glad i didn't heed your warning!

  7. The crying thing is hard to explain to a non-parent. I remember my now-ex and I looking at one another and saying "Is that his hungry cry? Or is it his 'I want to be picked up' cry?, etc." It's funny, because there were times when he wanted me, times he wanted her, and times only grandma (my mother) would do.

    It's funny-- I worked for a while at the daycare center where my son went, and I could hear his cry in a room with 20 other kids. Like I said, it's hard to explain to a non-parent, isn't it?

  8. "One thing that astonished me about new motherhood was how instantly and intensely all of us moms know our baby’s individual cry."

    Like sheep and lambs.

    My convincement came when my baby died in 1994. My infant daughter became my spiritual teacher and my guardian angel. It's no reach for me to think of a Divine Mother.

    Thanks for a very sweet post.


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