Mother’s Day. The day when women who aren’t mothers but wish they were feel the burden a bit more; the day when guilty husbands serve breakfast in bed and make a bigger mess than it’s worth; the day when mothers reflect again on the whole business and decide it’s worth it after all.
Motherhood in a Mess
But motherhood has gotten bad press for the last couple of decades. We have been through some strange phases; perhaps not as neatly packaged chronologically as I will present them. We went through the time of embarrassed silence in society, when a woman, asked what she does, replied, “Oh, I stay at home and raise the kids. I’m a mother.”
Then came the syndrome of the failed mother; the mother is responsible for all kinds of insecurities and failures in the child. Who hasn’t read some novel about the overbearing, domineering, perfectionist mother who irrevocably scarred her child’s psyche for life? Was that Norman’s problem in Hitchcock’s Psycho? — you remember, the guy who ran the hotel and had the hobby of stabbing folks in the shower. Perhaps that was the problem of whoever it is that’s always back in those terrible Friday the 13th movies. Anyway, we went through a phase of saying that if you can’t cope, you can always blame it on mother.
Then came the women’s liberation movement, with some women not only rejecting motherhood, but womanhood, too; and trying to be like men. And from the mixed wisdom and foolishness of various women’s emphasis groups has come a time when many women are appreciating the fact that they are different from men, and they are celebrating the fact that they are specially created for the bearing of children. So that now we are seeing a fad, featuring your favorite movie star, in which she decides she wants a child — not marriage, perhaps not a husband — just a child. She wants the uniquely female experience of bearing a child, cuddling it, nursing it, possessing it.
That is an odd, foolish, sad, and tragic trend. It is, among other things, using a child as a thing for the woman’s gratification. It is disregard for God’s intention for motherhood and society and His blueprint for the home. But this phenomenon of the deliberately incomplete family, this twisted view of motherhood, is instructive for our society — it says motherhood is accepted again, it emphasizes a sickness in our culture, and it can set us to thinking about motherhood as God intended. For there is motherhood; and there is motherhood.
Motherhood and Lordship
Let us think about motherhood as God intended, under the Lordship of Jesus. We have made it tough — we Christians — for the women in our homes, our churches, and our society to be effective mothers. Aside from blaming them for all the emotional quirks of their offspring, we have often set up an impossible emotional picture of the role of mothers, a mold into which we pour each woman. Yet no woman is perfect, no mother is perfect, any more than any man or any father is perfect. That which makes a woman a successful mother is not how comfortable she is with the Mother’s Day card image, but rather her own sense of personhood, of personal worth, of being loved, of being in God’s will in the matter of motherhood as in all other areas of life. The only way any woman can be the kind of fulfilled, fulfilling mother that God intends, is to let Jesus be Lord in her life.
The Motherly Character of God
Now we easily speak of God the Father, and readily confess that most fathers are poor reflections of that fatherly nature of God. In the light of Jesus’ claim of Lordship in your life, I raise a question this morning to mothers: Are you an effective reflection of the motherly character of God? I see I have your attention now! No, I am not calling God she or Mother God or anything of the sort. I am calling your attention to motherly attributes of the character of God that we say little about.
This was not always the case. The motherly attributes of God were a strong theme in the writings of the Church fathers and the medieval churchmen. We find it in the works of Augustine, Ambrose, Chrysostom, Anselm and others. One scholar, Richard Stauffer, has pointed out recently that Martin Luther’s favorite image of Christ was that of the mother hen protecting her chicks. But even more important than the way these great Christian thinkers saw the character of God is what the Bible teaches us of the motherly character of God.
In Genesis 1:27 we are told that God made man in His image, and that male and female made He man. Which is simply saying that both men and women are made in the image of God, and that the unique positive qualities of women are qualities of the character of God as well as the manly qualities we readily attribute to God.
What are some of the positive qualities of motherhood? I think immediately of security. The door slams as Junior charges in after school, and the echo of the door is his yell, “Mom!” He wouldn’t say, “I need to know you’re here for my security,” but that’s what’s going on. Did you lose any days out of your childhood because of the temporary absence of your mother? I still remember the week my mother was in the hospital for surgery; everything seemed strange and different and out of kilter; I felt lost. Mothers mean security.
Mothers also bring healing to the family. One of my favorite images of my wife through the years is that of the way she was so often hugging our children and wiping the tears from a skinned knee and kissing it, saying, “That’s all right; it will get better before you get married.”
Mothers not only bring security and healing to the family; they bring a sense of belief in the child. There is a book in my library, purchased thirty-five years ago, whose dedication has always reminded me of my mother; it is a little book by Frank Mead, and the inscription says: To Mother who, thru the hard years, smiled and stood fast while others smiled and turned away. Godly mothers are like that. Mothers almost always have the middle name of sacrifice. From the journey into the dark valley with the possibility of no return on behalf of a little one, to nursing in illnesses, to taking in washing to pay college costs; mothers sacrifice for their children, and do it gladly. It seems mothers are always giving; pouring their lives into the children.
And we can see so transparently so many of these qualities in the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus, as she accepts, when only a young girl, the strange news of motherhood; as she makes the journey not just to Bethlehem, but into the dark valley, and not in a sterilized hospital but in a dirty stable. We see that motherly protection as she flees to Egypt; we see her standing by Him in humility at Cana, and in broken-hearted love standing beneath Him at the cross. Those qualities, the highest qualities of motherhood — security, protection, healing, belief in the child, sacrifice, and yes, discipline — are motherly qualities women have because they are created in the image of God. Look with me at some scriptures which show us these motherly qualities of God.
Turn to Deuteronomy 32:11-12. Here Moses, in one of his farewell speeches to the children of Israel, reminds them that God has a special place in His heart for them (Deuteronomy 32:9). He goes on to speak of how God led and taught “Jacob,” the children of Israel (Deuteronomy 32:10). Then Moses changes his picture of God, and remembers how he watched, one day on the backside of Midian, a mother eagle teaching her young one to fly. She tried and tried to coax the young eaglet out of the nest and into the air, to no avail. Finally she swooped down from the sky, and with wings and talons she swept both nest and eaglet over the edge of the ledge and into the chasm. And as he fell, the young eagle began to flap his wings and fly in descending circles. As he tired, the mother eagle flew under him and caught him on her back, where he rested until he had strength to fly again. That, says Moses, is the way God works with His people. “As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the Lord did lead him …” God, like a mother, disciplines us, teaches us, pushes us out into the world to use our wings. Some call it tough love; I expect it was as tough on the mother eagle as on the eaglet; as hard on the mother as on the child, and not a joyful task for God, either. God as the mother eagle ….
Now examine Matthew 23:37. The image of God as a mother eagle may seem severe; here the image of God as the mother hen is softer. Most of us who are adults have seen the mother hen clucking and the chicks running to gather under her wings for safety and protection. Jesus, approaching Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, fastens His eyes upon the Holy City, the footstool of God, and as He does His heart is broken as He thinks of how He would have spared them the destruction speedily coming upon them.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem … how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” Jesus is saying, “I have the kind of motherly love for you that a mother hen has for her chicks; I would have gathered you to me, under the protection of my wings; but you would not respond to my call!”
Psalms 91:4 is one of our favorite verses: “He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: His truth shall be thy shield and buckler.” Brothers and sisters, let us put this image of the mothering character of God into our hearts, and run to the shelter of His wings when our hearts are fearful, when the burden is heavy, and when He calls us to flee from dangers unknown to us.
In Isaiah 66:13 we find a motherly promise of God: “As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you.” It is the promise of our God; He will comfort us as our loving mother comforted us as children, when our hearts were fearful of many things. And so often she dispersed the dark fear with a word because she knew so much more than we, and knew there was nothing to be afraid about. So it is with God, who loves us with a mother’s love, weeps with us with a mother’s sorrow, comforts us as a mother, when all other helpers fail and comforts flee.
So the lesson is that God is like a mother, is it? Well, in a sense. But more correctly, the godly mother is simply reflecting the character of God. The lesson is that every mother ought to be a mother who acts, as nearly as possible, toward her children like God acts toward us, because her finest motherly qualities are an extension of the character of God. Yet, no mother, in your own strength, can reflect the motherly qualities of God as you ought; no mother, in your own strength, can be the redeeming force in your child’s life that you ought to be, without a holy and sanctified relationship to God yourself.
I close with one other image of motherhood, found in Revelation 12:1-5. It is a piteous and hideous scene: a woman is travailing in childbirth, and a dragon is waiting at her feet to destroy her child as soon as it is born. Now this scene is of the birth of Christ. How I wish I could convince you that this same dragon — the devil, that old serpent, Satan, the deceiver — waits to devour your child from the day it is born. And unless you live in the power and strength of the Lord Jesus, the dragon may get your child; devour him or her through abortion, through drugs, through the temptations of this world.
So I ask all the mothers: Is Jesus the Lord of your life? Have you experienced the motherly love of God, strong, deep, sacrificial? Are you reflecting into the lives, the precious souls committed to your keeping, that your love and discipline and faith in them and sacrifice are all a reflection of a deeper love of God for each child? Is your life lived daily in the presence of God? Or is your life stuffed with soap operas and secular goals? Do you have the desire to pour your life and your faith into your children in such a way that they will know and love God?
You can be a biological mother without Jesus as Lord; but you cannot be a channel of the highest blessings of this world without Him. Would you this day make Jesus Lord of your life?

Share This On: