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God's Feminine Side

There is an image in scripture (Luke 13:34) of God as a mother hen, gathering her chicks beneath her wings. It is such a profound metaphor. Mothers all over the world can identify with that desire to pull her loved ones close, to shelter them from whatever outside force might cause them harm, and to use the fullness of her resources for the benefit of those who need them. In my experience, you do not need to give birth in order to have the gift and calling of motherhood. I recognize it in teachers, nurses and advocates, and in caring neighbors and friends who invest in the well-being of others without regard for their own comfort. It happens that Mother's Day is right around the corner which seems a wonderful reason to reflect on the influential women in our lives; those who pulled us close, kept us safe, and set us up for success often without us even noticing at the time.

For me, it is people like my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Bowling.  One day she filled my tiny hand with cinnamon red-hot candies as a reward.  I proudly clutched them in my fist as I walked home, and the stain they left in my mitten reminded me of that proud feeling for months.  It was a small kindness that has had lasting impact--I still smile when I think of it today!  It is also the way that my mom made room for us to laugh at ourselves and each other.  We had so many inside jokes born out of simple moments when we just laughed at a situation until we cried.  These are the memories that help us feel like we still belong to one another even though we now live thousands of miles apart.  And it is also in the way my friend Rebecca has loved my girls in and through every season of their lives.  Like in times of grief when she helped make birthdays happen for my youngest daughter, first just days after the death of my father-in-law and then again, weeks after we lost my own dad two years later.  Mothering hens are beautiful and special.

Then there is another image of God in scripture, this time as a fierce and fearless mother bear:
Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them and rip them open...
A bear defending her cubs, or fighting to recover them, is some of the most ferocious parenting we see in the world.  Many of us can recall moments of feeling like we could literally bite someone's head off for treating our kids, or those we love, in a way that might have caused harm.  My most aggressive parenting was probably in pursuing the right kind of education for my incredibly gifted, but also learning disabled, daughter.  I can already see these mama bear characteristics in my daughters as they advocate for human rights and defend the causes of marginalized people.  Likewise, I have watched dear friends fight for the lives of their children and husbands facing health crises.  The luckiest among us can recall moments when we felt fiercely protected by mama bear figures in our lives.

Even if you did not have a wonderful family growing up, the truth is that our Creator God, King of Kings, The Anointed One, The Good Shepherd, Yahweh, God Most High, is also our Mother Hen and Mama Bear.  The women in our lives who have treated us with comfort and nurturing and protection have reflected the very nature of our God in heaven.  It is easy sometimes to take these characteristics for granted or even to dismiss them in the women around us, especially our moms.  Perhaps this Mother's Day we could take some time to appreciate them, to thank God for being our Mother Hen and Mama Bear and for putting us in families and communities full of women who take us under their wings and fiercely defend us.  Let's celebrate the moms in our life and the feminine side of God!

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