Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

A Mothering Spirit


My grandchildren know that if they come to my house, they will end up at a playground. Their favorite is one of those really nice, plastic, well designed playgrounds made specifically for young children, not too high with all the ground rubber to make falls pretty painless. There are safety nets and rails, everything possible to make the playground safe for the young ones playing. But I have to admit, I hover My grandchildren run around, climbing and sliding, laughing and playing with the other children. The grandkids are so absorbed in having fun, they don’t realize I hover. But I still hover. I’m not the only one… there are other mothers and grandmothers there doing the same thing. Walking around the slides and bridges, keeping the kids in my vision at all times, close enough that I could jump at the slightest hint of a misstep or a fall or a problem with another child. And while the other mothers there might not have been hovering as badly as I was, they were every bit as attentive to their children. This is the picture we have of God in the Bible – this mothering spirit hovering over us, ready at all times to reach out and catch us when we fall, or snatch us into his arms when we need his comforting presence. We understand God being just as the mothers on the playground, watching, keeping track, diligently ready to help his children whenever they may need him. The Hebrews who wrote the OT scriptures certainly had this same idea of God’s mothering nature. In the Hebrew language, all words have gender, all words are either masculine or feminine. This is shown by putting various combinations of letters at the end of the words. They didn’t have any words which are neutral – or a concept of ‘it’ rather than ‘he’ or ‘she’. So every word has a gender to it. Understanding how great and large is God, the Hebrews tried to show how great God was by giving him different names which showed his different characteristics. One of the most common names used in OT for God is Elohim. Interestingly enough, Elohim is one of the rare Hebrew words that has contained within it both masculine and feminine endings. Trying to get across the idea of God’s inclusion of both masculine and feminine characteristics. Another of the names for God is El Shaddai. El means God and Shaddai refers to the birthing and nurturing nature of a mother. El Shaddai actually means God who is mother, not really referring to God as woman, but the mothering spirit, the mothering nature of God. El Shaddai – the God who cares for us like a mother cares for her young……. The Psalms are often where we most often see this picture of God’s nurturing motherly spirit. The Psalmists portray God with the same characteristics we see in the mothers around us. This is especially true in Psalm 139. Looking at parts of this Psalm, we see the descriptions used to describe a God who helps us, encourages us and guides us to grow. The Psalmist says, “ Where can I go? ” – nothing we may do can cause us to be somewhere without God, “Where can I flee ? ” – no bad choices or wrong decisions can take us away from God. “If I go up to the heavens” – the good is our life is because of our God, “  if I make my bed in the depths” – even in the ugly, sinful moments of our life, God loves us and is ready to come and snatch us back to his arms, “If I rise on the wings of the dawn” – God helps us to soar above the fray of our daily life, “if I settle on the far side of the sea” – we can never hide where God cannot reach us, “even there your hand will guide me” – God is everywhere, guiding us through, “your right hand will hold me fast.” – God sustains, nurtures, comforts, embraces us. Can’t you see that same picture of the mother (or grandmother)

on the playground – hovering right there, able to see. Even when that child tries to hide, that mother knows where he is, even when he tries to do something they shouldn’t, or isn’t able to do something, Mom is right there. Even when she falls, the Moms hand reaches down and brings that child into her arms. And when playground time is over, you see the child holding onto their Moms hand as they go to leave……………. That is the picture of God in our life. That hovering, caring, ready mother – never far away and always ready to reach and grab. The Psalmist is helping us to see that God’s nature is much like the nature of your mother – as you trusted your Mom to always be there – God is there. As you trusted your mother to care for you, God cares for you. As you trusted you Mom to always love you, regardless of where you found yourself, God loves you regardless of the poor or wrong decisions when you end up in desperate places. Like you mother loved you, God loves you. Julia of Norwich is one of the saints of the Catholic church. She lived in the 14
th century. In the Catholic tradition, every saint has a day and Julia of Norwich’s day always falls close to Mother’s Day. She wrote extensively about understanding the nature of God. Julia contended that by understanding mothers, we could better understand what God is like. At the age of 30, Julia entered the convent to become a nun. Speculation is that she lost her family – her husband and children in the black plague – which is why she entered the convent to become a nun at an age older than most women who usually joined as young girls. She became what was known as an anchoress – the anchoress was a nun who devoted her entire life to God in solitude and prayer. So her job basically, was to pray. During her time as an anchoress, she became very ill. Interestingly enough she had actually prayed for God to make her ill, because then she could truly experience the love and compassion of God. During the illness she had visions which she wrote down. It was in these visions that she expressed her understanding that God is not limited to our earthly understanding of God. God is so much more than any understanding we could ever have, so much greater than any words our language can use to describe him. Julia wrote that not only could we come to a more well rounded understanding of God by remembering the love and nurturing care of our mothers – but that we need to remember that a mother’s purpose is to bring new life into the world. Just as our mother has given us life – Jesus Christ has given us a new life! Jesus told us that we needed to be born again – our mother’s gave us our first birth and Jesus Christ gave us our second. God in Jesus Christ is the very essence of motherhood – we owe our earthly lives to our earthly mothers and our spiritual lives we owe to God in his son Jesus Christ. This Mother’s Day, we remember and honor our mothers – mothers who cared for us and loved us and picked us up when we fell down, mothers who hovered over us as we ran oblivious on the playground, mothers who were there when we did wrong, or when we needed a hug. While we remember our mothers, we are reminded that as our mothers loved and cared for us, God loves us and cares for us in the same way. A God who reaches out with the air of hospitality, inviting us to come to him where he will love us and comfort us and hover over us as we run oblivious around the playground of our lives. A mothering spirit who loves and cares for each and every one of us. Amen!