The way you hear some pastors talk about God, you’d think he was a barrel-chested, beer-drinking, gun-slinging Dude of dudes with barbed wire tattoos around his ever-bare arms. A sort of grotesque combination of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Rambo, Rocky Balboa, and John Wayne. This caricature of God can’t help but have a profound effect on our spirituality.
Now it goes without saying that it is true – OF COURSE – that God is most often described in the Scriptures in masculine terms. After all, Jesus taught us to call God “Our Father”, and the rest of the New Testament follows suit. But to say that God is “Father” is not to negate or reduce the other attributes of God, and a good many of those attributes are those typically reserved for the feminine. We read in Genesis 1 that when God created man “in his own image”, “male and female” he created them. That is to say, BOTH the masculine AND the feminine find their source and origin in God. No surprise then that the writers of Scripture would often unabashedly use feminine metaphors and images to describe God’s heart for his people. The Psalmist said that “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge” (Ps 91:4), a clear image of a mother bird pulling her babies close to her body. Isaiah wrote that “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (Is 49:15). As his ministry was drawing to a close, Luke records Jesus saying, in deep pain over Jerusalem’s obstinacy, “O 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, but you were not willing” (Mt 23:37). More passages could be multiplied.
I hope that it will be recognized that I am not at all trying to make some kind of controversial theological or political point. I simply think that this is THERE in the Scriptures, and ought to be embraced and celebrated as part of God’s will for our flourishing in Him – that He is not just strength (a quality typically reserved for masculinity), but tender, nurturing love… love that creates a sort of womb of motherly safety and security around us and hence creates the context necessary for us to become all that he has designed us to be. It is crucial for our spirituality that we learn to embrace and yield to God’s tenderness over us.
With that in mind, this past weekend at Bloom, since it was Mother’s Day, I wrote a short prayer for use in our worship which was intended to capture this trajectory and orient our imaginations towards God’s gracious, tender, even motherly presence over our lives… and I thought it good to share with you. So here it is. It is short, but I think potent. Enjoy.
Yielded To Tenderness (A Mother’s Day Prayer)
We give you thanks
for your loving presence,
which surrounds us on every side;
for the benevolent goodness that holds all
for the motherly tenderness that awakens us to be our truest, best selves.
Grant us grace to yield our lives
to your tenderness,
becoming in You all that you
long for us to be.