What Happens When God Can be Mother Too?

Category Archives:Men and Mother God

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?

 

God The Mother is For Non-Moms and Men, Too

I’ve written a lot of posts so far about being a mother, and what that teaches me about God as Mother. But Mother God is for every one–single and married men, with or without children, and single and married women, with or without children. (And children themselves, but that’s for another post.)

I recently re-read journalist Julia Duin’s Quitting Church (2006), especially the section about why women leave the church. She implies that feminine God images in the church would help women stay, during a conversation she had with David Wilkerson in 1998.

She asked him why there were no verses that use feminine pronouns–for human women, not God–in the Daily Calendar he published–like Luke 1:45 or Is. 54:1. He had no answer–nor did he change his calendar.

As a single, childless woman, Duin left the church after her offers to serve were repeatedly rejected. When later she adopted a child and went back, the church welcomed her participation.

People who are not in a typical nuclear family often feel marginalized both in church and out. I don’t want to do that.

So I want to know–single and married women and men without kids: Is Mother God a term you can embrace? What does it mean to you to call God Mother sometimes? I want to hear from men with kids, too, as I suspect a feminine God image can help men in general, yet is still somewhat taboo. I will post more on this, later.

None of us women will ever be fathers, yet we’ve all used the label Father for God. Not being a mother doesn’t need to make Mother God less meaningful as a metaphor for God. Even if, like me, one’s relationship with one’s mother isn’t perfect, and is maybe even painful sometimes.

Sixty percent of the U.S. population emerges out of childhood with a secure psychological attachment to at least one caregiver, often Mom. So most of us can think of “Mother” and “God” and feel the love.

Forty percent of us can’t feel that totally secure love when we think of a parent, but eventually most of us probably attach to someone, a friend or a spouse or a child or an animal. (Being attached only to a child can bring its own problems for the child, however.)

It’s the attachment need that makes the mother metaphor for God so relevant. Even if we didn’t get our needs met, they are still there, no matter our age. We are always going to need a Divine Mom.

With my occasional gripes about my mother as I relate to her as an adult, I know that when I was a kid, she loved me. She was my safe place in the world. And she does make the term Mother God make sense.

Our best notions of Mother are the characteristics of God: always present, always loving, always working on our behalf. There for us, with the spiritual equivalent of hugs, extra attention when sick or sad, special gifts when we least expect them.

Referring to God as Mother means I look for God’s love, expect it, like a loved three-year old child does. He crawls into bed with mom in the middle of the night when he feels scared, because Mom has compassion for him. He confidently asks, as I did, “Mom, play Candy Land with me,” (again) and Mom does.

Even if we have no experience or memories of affection from our mom, someone, sometime, has given us a taste of unconditional love. We can expect the same willingness to give from Mother God, whether it’s that just blooming fragrant lilac tree outside our office window, or, as Teresa of Avila wrote, the gift of a little daisy in the grass.

I often see Her living yet eternal gifts in the birds around me. One crisp day in February, I was walking with Sam in a baby carrier, and we saw dozens of robins flying in and out of a huge holly tree loaded with red berries. I stopped, astonished.

This is a gift of a loving Mother, if I have eyes to see it. It has nothing to do with me being a mother. It’s just Gift, and these gifts are there for each of us.

How about you? How does it help you to call God Mother?