I’m a mom. I think about being a mom a lot. It makes sense. I’m also a theologian (budding). Thus, I think about God a lot. And, that makes a lot of sense, too. Often, these two realms overlap and I find myself holding my toddler, nursing her, and thinking about aspects of God and His work toward us, specifically (as of late) the image of God as it is manifested by both man and woman in unity. And I often find my thoughts wondering in this direction: what unique thing does woman bring to the image of God (keeping in mind that there’s a reason for making humanity in the image of God both male and female)? And–as radical as it may sound, as liberal as it may sound–what can I know about God by being a mother? What about motherhood uniquely represents the image of God? For part of my woman-ness is the ability to carry life within me, to birth that life, to sustain that life, so I wonder, what of those experiences points me to a unique aspect of the image of God?
And this is what I want to ponder over a few posts: The view of the image of God from motherhood.
Before I begin, I want to stress that the image of God is fully represented by the man and the woman (neither one carries more of the image than the other, both, together, carry the image of God uniquely and generally). And, I also want to stress that the image is fully represented by a man and a woman who do not have children. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something in motherhood and in fatherhood (though, I’m only speaking of motherhood here because I’m not a father) that can be the environment where the image gets pushed to the surface, visibly so; like, the difference between being 8 weeks pregnant and 38 weeks pregnant. This doesn’t make motherhood and fatherhood the end all and be all of Christian/Human achievements in life; they’re not. I am not a better Christian woman because I am a wife and a mother. I’m merely a Christian woman who is a wife and a mother and that’s the platform from which I’m speaking, that’s the lens I’m using now to peer into, to understand more of the image of God.
With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s begin…
Something occurred to me recently, when I was dealing with my daughter. She was screaming at me. I mean, screaming and shoving me (she’s very strong for 18 mos) and it was pure anger on her part because she was not getting something she wanted. Now, if I were screaming at you and shoving you you’re reaction, rightly, would be to walk away. Now, sometimes I do walk away, catch my breath, check my rage. But, oddly, I come back. I come back to her, mid tantrum and I bend low and pick her up in my arms and hold her (still full tantrum). Vocal chords at full impact and limbs flailing wildly, I go to her and bring her closer to me. Not farther, but closer. This is what most mothers do in many circumstances. They go toward the child that is hating them.
I can’t help it. Even when it’s bad–and my toddler can get bad, we’ve nicknamed her “The Fury”–even when I do have to walk away, I can’t walk away completely. My heart is still turned toward her, desires her, loves her, craves her. And I will return to her within minutes. There’s an actual chemical change that occurs in the woman’s brain the moment she becomes pregnant that forever changes her brain chemistry (she’ll never be the same again) that causes her to go toward her screaming child. This is something naturally unique to women, though men can experience the same change but only by “practice”, by being proactive in childcare, hands on with baby and their brains will begin to change too. But ours change the moment (or the moments before) we see that + on the pregnancy test. We are, from that moment on, hard wired to go toward our children. (Not all women have this chemical change, but it is very common.)
[Like] a mother comforts her child, so will I [God] comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem (Isa. 66:13).
This movement towards my child who is hating me is something I marvel at because it so much a part of God’s character. God, unyielding, moves toward those who hate him, toward his enemies. Like a mother, hard wired to move toward his children, the ones he loves, the ones he desires, the ones he craves even when they are yelling at him and thrusting angry fists into the sky. Like a mother, he pulls us in close to him, holds us, comforts us, and soothes us with His tender voice–the voice we’ve known since conception–and his warm words: I love you, I love you, I love you.