When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, He gave them what is now known as The Lord’s Prayer, which begins, “Our Father, who art in Heaven.” God is our Heavenly Father and is referred to throughout Scripture using masculine pronouns. There is no debate among most Bible-believing Christ-followers that God desired to be referred to using masculine pronouns and descriptions—after all, if the Bible is the inspired Word of God, every word is inspired, even the pronouns.
Nevertheless, we have missed so much of Who God is by assuming He is male. Keep in mind that when God made Adam in His image, He didn’t make just a male. The Word says, “Male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27). In other words, God’s image has both a male and female component. Eve was not another creation altogether—she was made when Adam was made but not drawn out and fully formed until her appointed time. We see this concept confirmed in the New Testament as well, when Paul reminds us that in Christ there is neither male nor female (Gal. 3:28).
There are hundreds of names for God in the Bible, but one in particular draws my attention as Mother’s Day approaches. El Shaddai, which means “God Almighty, All-Sufficient One” reflects the feminine part of God’s nature. The inference within this name is that He is a nurturer, one that supplies all of our needs, in much the same way as a mother meets the needs of her child.
As I reflected on El Shaddai this evening, I thought of my own children. When they were infants they were so helpless, and without nurturing they would have died. Similarly, toddlers grope and cling to their mothers as their primary life source. Yet as parents, one of the primary goals in rearing our children is to teach them self-sufficiency. With each passing year their need for us lessens.
Not so, with our need for El Shaddai. He never intends to parent us into self-sufficiency. On the contrary, as we grow in our relationship with Him, we rely on Him more and more. He tells us plainly that He is our God, and He will supply all of our needs according to His riches in glory (Phil. 4:19). He tells us that we have not because we ask not, and that we must ask, seek, and knock to find Him.
Though He desires our dependency, He also wants us to grow into maturity; but maturity in Christ is different than the transition from childhood to adulthood. God longs to reveal His mysteries to us, but He always wants to be our everything. We are reminded that “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
It is much easier to see God as a distant Father than as a loving, nurturing mother, is it not? Perhaps our religious experiences have led us to believe that He is a no-nonsense, task-oriented, hard-to-please Father, only interested in our continued obedience. Maybe our childhood experiences shaped the mother and father roles in our minds, and we attributed our earthly father’s strengths and weaknesses to our Heavenly Father.
Regardless of why we see God the way we see Him, most of us need a paradigm shift. We must learn the feminine side of God and see Him in His completeness. Some are familiar with the term “Abba Father” which denotes the warm child-like familiarity of the word “Daddy.” “Daddy-God” is a sweet term, and in some of my more intimate moments with Him, I have found myself calling out “Abba.”
May we never cease to seek His perfect fathering, but let us also become more acquainted with El Shaddai, our nurturing God, our “Mommy-God.” Even as I write this, I know some will read and cringe. The tight religious box that so many of us have been shut into rejects anything other than strong patriarchal verbiage in describing God. So let me use His own words to answer the question you may have.
In Isaiah 66, God is speaking to His people. About halfway through the chapter God says, “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you (13). Earlier in Isaiah 49, God compares His love for His people with that of a mother with a nursing child. In Hosea 11:3, 4, God describes Himself as one that taught a child how to walk, wrapped him in love, and even stooped to feed him—all images more typically associated with mothering than fathering. Two chapters later He describes Himself as a mother bear robbed of her cubs (13:8). In Isaiah 42:14, God says He will cry out like a woman in labor.
God clearly has no problem relating to women or embracing the feminine side of who He is. In our mixed-up culture, it’s hard to grasp a God that is both male and female, yet prefers to be addressed as “Father” but we must understand that God is beyond our understanding! If we are to be fully engaged with who God really is, we must open our hearts to His mothering side as well as His fathering one.
In the New Testament, we find Jesus lamenting over the state of Israel when He says, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”(Matt. 23:37). Could it be that we, like Israel, are more comfortable with a God that keeps His distance than one that longs to know us, to nurture us, to comfort us, and to gather us in His arms of love? Could we for a moment, close our eyes and imagine God bouncing us on His knees, or lovingly teaching us how to walk, or stooping gently to scoop food into our mouths?
From the beginning of time, human beings have thrived on love. And from that evil moment in the garden until present day, the enemy of our soul has tried to paint God with a dark and sinister brush. God loves us. Truly, madly, deeply—He loves us.
His father-heart loves us. His mother-heart loves us. This Mother’s Day and beyond, let us embrace all of who God is and receive the fullness of the love He gives.
All Scripture quotations from the NKJV.
tags “love, God’s love, Mother’s Day, father, mother, mommy-god”