When 'father' God is hard to palate | Women

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When 'father' God is hard to palate

Posted June 12, 2017

How might we share God with those who don’t know how to relate to God as father?

Inside and outside of our faith communities, we journey with women for whom a ‘father’ God can be difficult to palate.

Those of us who have never experienced the love of a father.

Those of us who have suffered abuse from their father or the father of their children.

Those of us who don’t know what a father is meant to do or be.

For them, the image of ‘father’ is a negative one. It brings memories of bitter experiences - experiences which give ‘father’ God a sour taste. How might we share God with those who don’t know how to relate to God as father?

Please, dare to search the scripture and humbly seek revelation about the heart of God with me, as we each long to uncover the fulness of God's glory as it pertains to the 'mother' heart.

God: Above and beyond

Our human concepts of gender cannot contain God.

God is not female. Nor is God male.

Rather, God encompasses both the best aspects of a father figure and the best aspects of a mother figure. Or to take this further - as Rob Bell puts it: 'God transcends and yet includes what we know as male and female.' 

God transcends our human concepts of gender. Yet, incredibly God can be described using them. As female. As male. As father. As mother. It is not wrong to speak of God as ‘he’. Nor is it wrong to speak of God as ‘she’. So just as we can connect with God as father, we can connect with God as mother.

Scripture reveals God to us using both fatherly and motherly characteristics. Together, woman and man make up the Imago Dei - the sacred image and care of God. Yet we often ignore God’s feminine side.

Why is that? And what life-bringing messages have we ignored from this motherly image of God? Let us together look at what God has to say about this, in order to see the revelation of our Maker's full self.

God has given birth to us and to a great purpose

'You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.' - Deuteronomy 32:18

Here, God accuses his people Israel of ingratitude. They had started worshipping false gods and forgotten God. How could they forget the one that both fathered and gave them birth... birth as only a mother can?

In Isaiah 42:14 we again have imagery of a God who gives birth -'For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant.'

This verse is part of rounding off a section on the hopelessness and hope of Israel. And its words provide a great hope. God has been gestating a great purpose. A purpose that has grown step by step, that has been planned for and now has come.

It is birthed.

God cares for and comforts us

'But I have calmed and quieted myself,

I am like a weaned child with its mother;

like a weaned child I am content.'

Psalm 131 is only 3 verses long - and yet it manages to express endless confidence in God in the midst of trouble.

Why? Because God cares for us. This scripture is a song - one that paints the parallel between a weaned child with its mother, and the psalmist with God.

A feminine image of God - of God as a mother. The psalmist uses this image to describe his confidence in God - for he can rest comfortably in God, as a weaned child can rest comfortably in their mother’s arms. He concludes with a exhortation to hope in God, that all can trust in God who will take care of them.

We also find God’s motherly care in Isaiah 66:13 'As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.'

Israel is in shock. They are displaced from their land, mourning, grieving and wondering if they even have a future anymore. Yet God wraps comfort around them... much in the way a mother would. They experience maternal care.

A child cannot feed itself. Their mother provides nourishment.

A child cannot yet walk. Their mother carries them.

A child is comforted in the security of their mother. God provides this comfort to us.

God longs to protect us passionately.

'Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them and rip them open.' - Hosea 13:8a

A mother bear: In Hosea’s announcement of judgement are pictures of ferocious animals - including a bereaved female bear in a frenzy to recover her cubs or destroy their attackers. Here, we have described for us the instinct of a mother to protect her children.

God is like a mother bear who will turn heaven and earth to get her cubs back. Hosea expresses the innate passion of a mother to protect, see the best for her children and bring them back to her. In the same manner, God will protect us.

A mother hen: There is a story I heard about a raging forest fire that ripped through trees and bushes before relentlessly devouring a farmhouse on the outskirts of the tree line - consuming everything within.

As the embers cooled, the devastated farmer walked among the ruins. As he was picking his way through the charred debris, he noticed a burned lump in the ground. Curious, he prodded it with his stick and saw that the lump was actually a hen, burned to death.

The farmer turned the hen over and, to his surprise out ran three chirping baby chicks. The hen had died in the flames even as it saved the lives of her helpless brood.

Jesus likens himself to a mother hen in Matt 23:37 (also Luke 13:34):

'Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.'

The threat of death and menace of violence seeps throughout this scripture. Indeed, the nation of Israel was idol-worshipping and behaving in destructive patterns, killing and stoning the very prophets of God. From her inception, Israel was named the offspring of God - but she had thrown away her inheritance, given up her safety, and copied the world. The ‘fire’ was raging out of control. 

A complete saviour: A dead hen. Marred beyond recognition, blackened by flames, killed by a raging fire that sought to destroy every living thing in its path ... but with live chicks sheltering under the safety of her wings.

A dead saviour. Marred beyond recognition, beaten by soldiers, willingly killed by our raging fire of sin that sought to destroy every living thing in its path ... but with live children of God sheltering under the safety of Christ's blood.

And praise God, Christ overcomes death itself and rises from the grave, so we might join him in eternal life!

Terribly, the chicks in the scripture refuse to be rescued and scurry off in the wrong direction - the Jewish people refused to accept Christ even as he came. Will we make a better choice today - and run to the tender, mother heart of our loving God?

  • God has given birth to you and to a great purpose.
  • God cares for and comforts you.
  • God longs to protect you passionately.

Jesus Christ as the mother hen, desperate to save the children of God, us. God the mother bear, defending fiercely the children borne to bear the holy priesthood. These are powerful, life-bringing messages. Won't you pray with me today:

God, our wonderful Lord - will you allow that these 'mother heart' images bring healing to those in our community who find ‘father’ God hard to palate right now? Will you show us more of the fulness of your grace, wholeness of your trinity and perfection of your presence as we seek to know you better, beyond our limited human traditions and incarnations.

You are wholly perfect, and holy beyond all else. We love you for your tender mercy, the way you give us grace and comfort in the times of distress.

Please, God - bring a supernatural comfort and peace to those in distress today. Let your people speak of you clearly and truly, and embrace your character as you continue boldly revealing it.



By Emma Howan

For Women's Ministries