Finding the feminine image of God in the Bible and in women.

Archive Tag:why call God Mother

What the Mother Metaphor Reveals about God

Mother God bugs people. She rocks the church-boat. She downright infuriates some. So, how can calling God Mother help us?

The loving, safe associations we often have with Mother change our inner image of God, or feelings and attitude toward God, sometimes dramatically. The mother metaphor helps us form a truer picture of God than using only the father metaphor. I’d like to explore three ways it does this.

With You Always

1. The first is immanence, which refers to the nearness of God, as opposed to God’s transcendence, or greatness in comparison with creation. Jesus showed us that He is Emmanuel, God with us (Matt. 1:23). He said He would always be with us, even to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20). In the Old Testament, God first named Herself as I AM, conveying presence with the Israelites and Moses (Exodus 3:14). Jesus identified Himself with the Present God when He said, “Very truly I tell you, before Abraham was born, I am.” (John 8:58).

But most of us have a Jesus/Father God split, at least to some extent. Jesus is the good guy, interceding for us, and Father God is the distant, enthroned one. He is the final authority with the power to punish.

Jesus came to undo that thinking, because He and God are one (John 10:30), but it persists for most of us. Calling God Mother allows us to finally understand that Jesus really did come to show us who God is, that God is near, God is present, God is tender and loving toward us. (Of course, God is “other” too. God is still transcendent, but most of us have that deeply embedded in our psyche already and it trips us up as we try to relate to God.)


2. The second reason has to do with the first. God is near, and God came to meet us in human flesh. Calling God “Mother” reminds us that God came in a body. Being a Mother can never be ethereal; it is always an enfleshed experience.

And it’s crucial we see God through the lens of the Incarnation, that God came to feel and experience many of the things we do, and that God came to relieve our physical pain. Jesus healed, Jesus delivered from spiritual oppression.

Jesus didn’t just show up and say I’m God, worship me. He lovingly cared for our bodies, like a mother.

The Image of Woman

3. Thirdly, calling God Mother reminds us that God made women in Her image (Gen. 1:27). This means that within the Trinity, there is the image of woman. Birth, nurture, love-poured-out, and whatever else is commonly thought of as feminine, is within God. The Bible depicts this, though we tend not to see its importance due to our belittlement of women within the church and in society.

The word pictures usually depict the motherliness of God, because that was the common reference point for women at that time, but the image of God is in all women and girls, not only mothers. Even the Bible includes comparisons between God and non-mothers. God as midwife and God as “mistress” (see verses below) depict a woman who was usually unmarried. The writer of Proverbs describes Wisdom as being birthed by God, putting Wisdom in the role of divine daughter.

The God Who Gave You Birth

The Biblical images below powerfully claim that God made women, too, in Her image. And so does calling God Mother.

“You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.” Deuteronomy 32:18

“Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb?– when I made the clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band. Has the rain a father, or who has begotten the drops of dew? From whose womb did the ice come forth, and who has given birth to the hoarfrost of heaven?” Job 38:8-9, 28-29

“Yet it was you who took me from the womb; you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.” [God as midwife]. Psalm 22:9

“As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God.” [God as mistress]. Psalm 123:2

“I [Wisdom] was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be. When there were no oceans, I was given birth [by God], when there were no springs abounding with water; before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth.” Proverbs 8:23-25

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from your birth, carried from the womb, even to your old age I am he, even when you turn gray I will carry you. I have made, I will bear; I will carry and will save.” Isaiah 46:3-4

“For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labor, I will gasp and pant.” Isaiah 42:14

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” Isaiah 49:15

“For thus says the Lord:…As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.” Isaiah 66:12-13

May we all come to know God, who is our Mother as well as our Father, more closely.

See these and more feminine Biblical images here:

Feminine Images of God in the Bible


Why God-as-Mother Isn’t a Goddess

Is Mother God a Goddess?

I used to procrastinate thinking through the issue of calling God Mother, just like I put off making a final decision about the nature of homosexuality. I had intellectual questions about both topics, sure, but my hesitation originated in my emotions. I feared being in the wrong. Heretical. Outside of the good people circle who believe the right things, like popular speaker and writer Jen Hatmaker found herself this week.

This article is for you if you are like I was, because sometimes nagging questions keep us tied to a post instead of riding free. Are you afraid that calling God Mother turns God into a Goddess? Do you wonder if I am headed into a different religion altogether?

Asherah Poles Can Stay Down

It is true that such religions existed, in the old Hebrew syncretism, and still in Hinduism, and sometimes in contemporary American forms. But that’s not where I’m at. I am not asking to put up the Asherah poles. I am not worshiping women or a God who is only female. Nor do I worship the earth.

I worship the invisible God (made visible in Christ two thousand years ago), who is without sex or gender. And I mean worship. I’m the kind of believer who prays for healing for her children and pets, who thinks and prays daily about how to look more like Jesus in my thoughts and actions, who cries during worship songs. I care about immigrants, people of other religions and beliefs and ethnicities, and the poor. And yet I am also a sinner saved by grace.

Why Mother God?

Why, then, you ask, do you have to call God Mother, if God is without sex or gender?

Because we have already made God male in our minds. Masculine titles like “Lord” and “King” for God speak repeatedly that God is gendered. So we have the “Man Upstairs” with no female equivalent. Every one knows God is a “He”–the Bible said so, didn’t it, many times!

Back to the Bible

Let’s take a minute to think about exegesis and hermeneutics. In other words, how do we read the Bible well? In this month’s issue of Bible Study Magazine, several authors tackle 7 stumbling blocks to reading the Bible responsibly. One is “neglecting the cultural divide.” In the Middle East in Bible times (and now), men and women typically stood miles apart as far as social standing. So to assign God the least honorable gender would have been disrespectful, unthinkable perhaps.

But if we go back to the fact that God is Spirit, as Jesus told the Samaritan woman in John 4, and not a human male, we can see through this cultural value. Patriarchal cultures, even those from which the Bible came, are not God’s doing, but rather God working with us within humanity’s skewed and broken ways of thinking about each other.

Jesus came in part to un-do those cultural beliefs. He changed the honor/shame cultural dichotomy, where men received public honor and women and children were shrouded in private spheres of shame. He said if you want to be great, become a servant (Matt. 20:26-28). If you want respect, take the most humble seat at the table (Luke 14:7-14). If you want to be spiritual, take your cues from a child (Matt. 18).

That’s why Jesus’ reign is sometimes called “the upside-down kingdom.” Jesus does not have a hierarchy of valuable people, starting with men. His interactions with women revealed this radically, from affirming Mary as a disciple who could sit at Jesus’ feet (Luke 10:38-42), to advocating for the prostitute who anointed him at Simon’s house (see my post on her here).

She Bugs Us

Calling God “She” is uncomfortable, even if we finally understand that it doesn’t turn God into a Goddess. But the awkwardness is a part of the inner deconstruction we have to do. We have built up false images in our mind of the lesser worth of women, and the greater worth of men, and which gender can represent God.

As those false gods get smashed, we are going to feel bereft for a while. Those gender ideas are so familiar! And we all know, deep down, that mothers aren’t powerful like God. Right? (As we blame her for all our problems).

Time to think again, this time endowing women and mothers with all the power and respect they deserve as image bearers (Gen. 1:27). This is not a Goddess religion. This is justice.