What Happens When God Can be Mother Too?

Category Archives:Bullying

For Men: Coming Back to “Storge” Love

In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis writes, “I do not for a moment question that Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our natural lives.” He is speaking of storge love. (The Greek language has more than one word for love). This is parent-child love, the love that keeps family members caring for one another. This is the kind of unconditional love that will not end by abandonment, or abuse, or even by growing up.

It’s the kind of love that God as Mother may offer boys and men, when God as Father cannot.

Heart to Heart

A courageous man wrote a review of a children’s book called Heart Talks with Mother God. He writes of discovering that he can call God “Mother” at the age of 34. He says, “I only wish I’d known the Divine Feminine my entire life.  I have experienced warm, tender love from my human mother often throughout my life and this motherly image of God of speaks to me in a special way.” Reading the children’s book transformed his relationship with God to a trusting, loving relationship between Mother and son.

I have noticed on my Facebook page that men are as interested in calling God Mother as women. This surprised me at first, but then it made sense. Historically, religious men have been more attracted to maternal imagery for God than religious women, says scholar Caroline Walker Bynum.

Calling God Mother gives men inner permission for emotional intimacy with God. It allows men to return to that primal relationship that was the closest and most dependent they will ever have: mother and son.

Missing Love

Too often that vital relationship is removed too soon, and storge goes missing, maybe until marriage, maybe for a lifetime.

Before I had my first son, I never thought much about the taboos around mothers and sons. When Marshall was 3, I read a book called, The Courage to Raise Good Men: You Don’t have to Sever Your Bond with Your Son To Help Him Become a Man. The author’s grown son kept his distance from her since he was very young, due to her attempts to push him away. She and her husband thought this was her duty, and she realized too late that they had emotionally abandoned him.

I imagine this is true of many moms and dads. Even in the 21st century, parents have strong feelings about what boys and girls are like, or should be like, resulting in boys who grow up too soon. Pushed, or perhaps dropped, out of Mom’s arms as early as kindergarten, Dad catches the child. Instead of holding him close, the father pushes him further away into independence, the realm of the infant-turned-Little Man. The boy isn’t supposed to cry, he’s supposed to like playing war games, and he must keep his fears to himself.

Toughness Protects

Boys get it. They understand how to stay in the circle of acceptance by their dads and moms and their friends. Boys’ peers can make their life hell if they don’t act a certain way, and parents and kids know this. Bullies target the boys who don’t act like the stereotype of one (like my oldest experienced). Parents fear their son is going to be the “wimp” that gets picked on if he doesn’t toughen up.

Does God the Father Expect The Same?

What does this do to a boy’s image of God? How is a kid supposed to relate to a loving Father who is always present, even in the dark? How can a boy or man be vulnerable with God the Father, who might value only stereotypically masculine traits, like their earthly father?

Calling God Mother allows boys and men a chance to return to the softness and unconditional love, the storge, of God, that they once knew in their moms. Or, if the boys were lucky, to keep that sense of mother-love close by, as men.

What do you think? How has calling God Mother changed your life or the life of a man or boy you know?

How do you help your son stay connected to storge, affectionate love, in your family?

 

Mother God Disguised as a Child

I called on three Athena-like prayer warriors via email, after Marshall’s PTSD symptoms re-emerged with bunny Acorn’s death.

Soon after, Marshall was peaceful again, happy with being mayor of Animal Crossing on his Nintendo.

Yesterday, he went to hippotherapy and music therapy. He learned to groom a horse and got a piano lesson. The therapies are creative, life-giving, healing, an ointment from Mother God our Creator-Healer.

Marshall’s told me more stories lately, while rocking on the rocking chair and resting his face on the back cushion. How all of S.’s ToonTastic characters (Pin, Fiery, Plummy, etc.) would meet a Marshall character she created and call him a jerk and other names. How S.’s posse on the playground circled him one time while S. kicked him, and how a tall boy said to him, “This group is for brutes only; wimps can’t join.”

And how there was a group of kind girls who invited him to their club. And there were gentle boys too who befriended him who weren’t a part of S.’s group. He felt protected when he was in the group of girls.

Where were the grown-ups? Where was Mother God? Where was I, his mother?

I have wondered lately if Mother God feels the pain I do, over what happened to Marshall.

Lauren Winner writes about rarely considered metaphors for God. In her chapter about God as a laboring woman, she writes, “In their darkest hour, the exiles wondered, ‘God, where are you?’ In His final hour Jesus cried out, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ In the image of the laboring woman we see that God does not respond with silence. God groans, gasps, and pants–making a new way for exiles, breathing life into the whole of creation, offering God’s body to be broken open for the sake of the world God created.”

It makes sense that God is capable of a great range of emotions like Her creation, and able to express those feelings. How odd it would be for a Spock-like God to make beings with a capacity for feelings, when She had none! I think we all intuit that though feelings do indeed lead us to unwise decisions, they lead us to all our decisions, ultimately.

Feelings are our spiritual life blood, from the Spirit Herself.

So, surely God does suffer over our traumas. Jesus has felt all our weaknesses, our temptations, and feelings, as humans (Heb. 4:15). And Jesus was bullied, too.

Mother God, unlike me, the human mother, was with Marshall each moment he felt trapped and abused by the bully. Mother God was at work to rescue Marshall. Human adults weren’t listening, but some children were.

Mother God was present in the girls who invited Marshall to join their club, and in the boys who played with Marshall without questioning what class he was in.

Part of listening is also seeing: She comes disguised as the child who says, Yes, to love.

Rejoicing with Bilbo and Mother God

Marshall has had some breakthroughs spiritually lately. He decided to forgive the bully after our discussion about her inability to see from his perspective. (She has Asperger’s, too). She couldn’t perceive what he was feeling. He said again today that he’d forgiven her. He wants to write a card that says, “I forgive you and love you.” He’d wanted to kill her a few days ago.

Today Marshall’s one-page devotion talked about Jesus as the bread of life and invited kids to ask Jesus into their hearts. This time Marshall asked, “How do I do that?” instead of telling me to shut up. He said, “I’m bad. I’ve done bad things.” I know Marshall’s heart is good; and the bad things are the spiritual crap loaded onto him from the bully. But every spiritual journey needs to include owning up and letting go.

I told him when I was little that my babysitter said the words and I repeated after her. I tried that with him to show him how he could pray. I said, “Jesus, come into my life. Forgive all my sins and make me clean inside.” He listened.

I said, “When God is able to fill more of you, the bully will have less influence.” He said, “That’s good.”

Yesterday, when he was acting out a drama where the evil character gets the most power, I asked, “What is your power?” He said, “I don’t know. I don’t have any.”

I said, “What about your voice? You can speak the truth.”

He said, “That’s good. Okay,” and zoomed into the play room where he began a loud dialogue.

“Evil is the greatest power!” growled the first voice.

“No, goodness is!” answered a confident Marshall. This is the first time he has tried to fight evil with goodness or its truth. Usually, he wants to kill everyone off.

We are making progress. I know Marshall is in Jesus’ protective gaze, and the angels fight for him, and Mother God embraces him, no matter what he says he believes or doesn’t. Yet when we win a battle, when we have more light, I feel grateful.

We have a copy of The Hobbit lying around, and every time I read another page, I immediately identify with Bilbo Baggins and the dwarves. We are in a dark wood, on a long journey to face down Smaug. Now and then, though, there is a sunshine-filled clearing to rest and drink, or the elves give us a party. And we rejoice with Mother God.

Keep Talking

What do you do with the pain of injustice, while you wait for Mother God? You talk about it. I do, anyway.

Marshall talks, and draws. This morning he drew a caricature of the bully. She stood in a pool of blood with only bones for legs. These are images from her own stories she showed Marshall. I tried to talk him out of this drawing but it is his expression of waiting for justice.

When Jesus was on the cross, waiting to die, he talked, too—amazingly. He asked God why he’d forsaken him. He told a man next to him he’d be with Jesus soon in Paradise. Justice. He complained, “I thirst.” He asked God to forgive the ones who’d crucified and tormented him. He gave his mother a new son, John, to care for her. And finally He let people know his work was done.

He was not just a victim, because redemption for every one, through His death, was coming. “It is finished,” He said finally, and He gave his spirit to God.

Maybe there is some spiritual parallel here. What we’re all waiting for is the pain of injustice to die. Because some things can’t be restored. Can our beloved son un-know that people kill each other or die in gruesome ways or that a friend he trusted hurt him repeatedly?

We are managing pain, hanging here on our own cross. I say “we” like Mary may have said it.  She was at the bottom of the cross after all, waiting with Jesus to die. She never left.

I wonder if she said the wrong things sometimes, like I do. Because of us not understanding Marshall, he feels abandoned—“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” said Jesus. We forsake by trying to pull him into our world, with forceps. All the old parental controlling techniques just damage.

Last night, I just invited him to come sit next to me and I held him close. This heals, this brings relief and a glimpse of resurrection. Marshall thirsts, for touch, tender looks, the love that gets stored and locked up in the hearts of tired parents.

One of the phrases that has sometimes grated on me is Micah’s many requests for smoothies throughout any given day. “I’m firsty,” he’ll say.

His little speech impediment makes him sound so little, and reminds me of how little he really is at age 9. The request can come 4 or 5 times a day, because he shuns water.

To give Christ drink, when he is thirsty on the cross, is an honor many of us would embrace. And so will I.

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“Dirty Fingernails,” by Susan Harrison, inspired by Nadia Bolz-Weber in Pastrix

 

Jesus’ fingernails were dirty

When Mary met him near the tomb

Resurrection is like that meeting,

Not so much like Easter morning.

 

My fingernails are dirty, too

From my garden and my work.

Could you see I am the body

On this coming Sunday morning?

 

And if I brought my son, or sent him–

The one with marker on his face,

And with dirty hair and hands?

Could you find a resurrection there?

Open Hands

The past 4 days, I have opened up my clenched hands, up to the sky, to receive from Mother God. Our family needs a drenching of Her rain. My soul is opening up for us all, opening in trust and expectation of good gifts, particularly for Marshall.

Day 1, Marshall said, “The real Marshall loves goodness. But I feel there are two Marshalls, one that loves evil and one that loves good.” On day 2, he got off the computer on his own and came downstairs. He said, “God told me to get off the computer. At least I think it was God.”

I said, “Oh, yeah, that was God”. This is the first time Marshall has talked about hearing from God.

Day 3, after reading chapter 3 in Stormie Omartian’s book, Power of a Praying Kid, he agreed to pray for the bully who hurt him. We prayed together for her healing.

Open hands can receive gifts, and Mother God has many.

Mother God Loves the Bully, Too

Yesterday, Marshall told me more of how the girl at school hurt him. He actually had told her he didn’t like the violent things she said, but she kept saying them. She’d threaten him in various ways to get him to watch her horror- based Toontastic videos: “I will drink all your blood if you don’t,” or “I will choke you if you don’t.” He was afraid she would do just what she said, so he complied. He said, “It was horrible.” Marshall says she did this kind of thing to the two younger girls in the class, too.

I know now why he said—or where it came from—that he’d choke me, at the psychologist’s office. He never knew what choking was before this girl. Just makes me angry and sad.

I’ve been reading Tatoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyd, a Jesuit priest who founded Homeboy Industries in the gang neighborhoods of L.A. He talks about having to face the challenge of loving the kids who murder the kids he loved.

And of the mothers. One mother’s oldest two sons were murdered within one year. She ended up in the ER one day with heart problems. Suddenly, a teenage boy was brought in right next to her. He’d been shot several times.

It was certainly a boy who was in the gang who’d shot her sons. The team was working hard to save him, but he was dying. She knew her friends would say to pray for his death. But she knew also she could not wish another mother to go through what she’d been through. She began to cry for the boy and prayed for him to live. And he lived.

This is the great love of Mother God, who takes the bully under her wing, as well as Marshall.

Yet, I wonder, how does Mother God feel happiness, delight, in each of her creatures, no matter what they do? I guess the same way I feel delight in my kids no matter what they do. The delight is the default, after the pain, after the anger. Always delight eventually.

But there is still pain. For two days, Sam has wanted to swing in the back yard in his toddler swing. I can see his beautiful face this way. I sing “back and forth” to him in a sing-song way, and he smiles at me like a light was inside him.

If I pretend I am someone else, I can momentarily erase the dullness in my eyes. The sadness and grief go away, and I can meet Sam in his pure, new delight. But as me, I want to hide my eyes from Sam (though I don’t). He needs an adult to mirror his joy.

To mirror Mother God’s joy. Boyd writes, “Delighting is what occupies God, and God’s hope is that we join in. That God’s joy may be in us and this joy may be complete. We just happen to be God’s joy. That takes some getting used to.”

Yes, it does, and calling God “Mother” is helping.



The Perspectives of Love

Marshall flopped on the floor of the psychologist’s office, playing with one of those sensory pin toys that make the shape of your hand. He was explaining to her why he hates people: “They have destroyed so many animal habitats.” She nodded—she loves animals, too—and asked, “Is there any one you don’t hate?”

Marshall then climbed up into my lap, all 83 pounds, 4 and a half feet and I gave him a long hug. I was the Good Mama.

But at the end of the session, he accidentally hit his head on the side of the door. Then he came back into the room and hit me, with threats quoted directly from the older girl who bullied him.

I try to stay half in denial about Marshall’s new self, affected by trauma. The other half of me, at least, has to enter his world and see what he sees. And occasionally kick a demon out.

This is the Mama-Jesus-Task—walking scary roads together, never abandoning, always beckoning.

The Reign of God Starts with our Parenting

Jesus said John the Baptist was “the Elijah who was to come” (Matt. 11:14). The second Elijah, John, was to “turn the hearts of the parents to their children” (Mal. 4:5,6; Luke 1:17).

Repentance and the reign of God is at least partly about children, in their worst moments, the times we most want to turn away or to threaten to withdraw our love. To really repent is to love our children with open hearts even when we’re in pain, and to stop the control-through-fear, the manipulation, the verbal or physical abuse. It’s to choose to see from our children’s perspective.

I’ve never heard a sermon on this verse, yet if John was the greatest human in history (Matt. 11:11), in Jesus’ estimation, then we need to listen. I need to listen.

There are so many components to love, like a big Lego heart. The funny thing is, I’m not aware of having learned love from God, like the part of love that sees from the other person’s perspective.

Yet I believe Mother God sees life through my eyes; I think Mother God understands me. This is where I feel safe. If I thought Mother God would only argue with me about anything I said, I would never speak.

Arguing is the easy place to parent from. I have nearly reduced my interactions with Marshall to asking him to get off the computer so he can interact with us. He almost always say, “No.” The computer is now his friend, his safe place. I see it as an enemy.

The only thing that will put the pieces of our lives together is love, which will mean going deeper and deeper into his world and helping him sort it out together. That means I quit trying to control him and see what is important to him and why.

The Perspective of Grace

Yesterday, Joel had a moment of grace for Marshall, one I usually don’t. Marshall has taken to walking away from the house lately when he feels rejected. He and Joel were both in bare feet. Joel followed him down the street and said, “Can I come with you?”

Marshall looked back gratefully and said, “Yes,” and then began to tell Joel what a bad parent he was.

But by the time I saw them, outside, they were walking together toward home, smiling, side by side.

This is the metaphor for our parenting of our wounded Asper-boy. Don’t try to get him to change; go with him into his own choices and back out again. It is the safety of unconditional love that changes us.

This is also a metaphor for Mother God’s parenting. She doesn’t shout stern commands to come home; she follows us where we choose.

She never leaves no matter where we choose to go—the office, the pub, the bus stop or the Internet. And she loves us unrelentingly, loves us all the way home.










Almighty Mother

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The translators of the Divine Feminine Version see Jesus portrayed sometimes as Divine Wisdom (Matt. 11:`19; 1 Cor. 1:24, 30). This Divine Wisdom is also a feminine personification of God in the book of Proverbs. As the Holy Spirit, She is God-in-action.

It is God-in-action I most need to emulate now for my son Marshall’s sake; yet I cannot without Mother God’s mighty power, as well as Her wisdom. But can Mother God really be powerful like Father God? 

Ten years ago a group of us would gather for evening prayer, and sometimes recited the creed as, “I believe in God, the Mother Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth.” I wanted to use this phrase in my dissertation material. My then-adviser balked at the absurd contradiction in terms: Almighty Mother. He thought it just didn’t ring true.

Yet, every child knows the power of their own mother even long after they must hide that fact of our existence (especially men). To dust we return, but also to mothers we return, crying “mama!” on the death-bed. It’s one of the most profound certainties in life, that a mother’s relationship to us is powerful and even holy, especially as babies.

Sensing this, mothers carry enormous weight and guilt when it turns out we are not actually divine, that we are imperfect humans. And we hide away the pain of that realization into some notion that it is Father who we can see as Almighty, who can emulate God. Just look at those muscles!

No, Almighty Mother is a proper title for God. It just hits too close to our hearts. God too fails us; God appears less than all-powerful or less than perfectly good, just like our mothers. And then we are abandoned, alone.

This is how my son Marshall feels now. Mom wasn’t there when he needed me the most, when he was alone with the bully and an uncaring teacher, and even now, I flounder to know how to help. He says, “God left me by the roadside.”

His dad wasn’t there to rescue him, either, of course. But somehow that abandonment doesn’t shake or surprise like one by a non-omniscient, non-ubiquitous mother.

We have nothing some days but hope that Mother God is Divine Wisdom and is bigger than we know; and that Jesus too thought God had failed him (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he cried). Yet He was wrong.

So what is right? Hope. Always hope. Hope in Mother God and the ability to see what She is doing and what we are to do. Hope that She never leaves us, no matter how alone we may feel. Hope that She can and will make all things work together for good.