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.
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.
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?