So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
Genesis 1 v27
These words, coming at the outset of God’s revelation of himself to us in the bible, give us an enormous amount of information about ourselves, not least the easily overlooked idea that it takes both masculinity and femininity to fully express the image of God in human form! The human package simply can’t contain all the necessary characteristics in one unit, and so two were created. Their interaction through life, and union in marriage reflect aspects of God’s character too – the delight that God has within the trinity, and the love which is continually expressed there.
In the same way I believe the bible reveals that human love – in all its forms – reflects aspects of divine love for us. No single human love is rich and complex enough to convey the full treasury of love which God has for us, his beloved creation. Through our experiences of relationship and love, we taste a little of the goodness of divine love in all its variety. Although it is sadly true that many people experience a great deal of pain, and are let down badly by those who should love them, yet the principle remains valid. Through our human loves, we learn about God’s love, and in time learn to receive directly from him all that our hearts need, so that no human failure to love can ultimately destroy us.
I was privileged to have a godly and loving father, who was spared to see my children born, and who – through his faithful loving of and genuine delight in me – showed me so much of the heart of my heavenly Father. Even as I mourned him, I knew what kind of fatherly love was being poured out on me from God, full of comfort and steady as a rock.
What of a mother? A mother just wants to be with you, to share in all the ups and downs, to hear all the little details of your life, because it is a delight to her to watch you living. She has yearned over you for years, laboured to care and equip you for life, borne the tantrums and sulks, the laundry and faddy diets, the bizarre fashion and messy rooms – because she loves you, and her love goes so deep that you are part of her. Your joys are hers, your heart is her heart beating, when you weep, she weeps.
Two years ago this weekend, my mother died, and there is no one now to do these things for me. No one to whom I can safely pour out my mother pride in my own children, or share the little frustrations of life. I cannot get a picture of her life into words, cannot find a way to close the chapter yet, but this I know, that her loving of me was faithful, costly, and a great joy and pride of her life – and that I never said thank you enough!
The bible has very few explicit references to mothering as a quality of God, but when we explore what it actually involves, it is clear that when he made mothers, God put an enormous amount of himself into them! My God delights in my company, in sharing my thoughts and all my activities; remember those lovely words in Psalm 139 v 2& 3
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
He wipes my tears away, and numbers the very hairs on my head; my name is engraved on his hands and he will never forget me. The gift of Christ his son, to be my saviour and lord, to be my very life, means that my heart is his heart, and all that grieves and wounds me, is felt by him. I am and will always be a daughter, even though my mother is dead, because my God mothers me, and I am comforted, nourished and affirmed by that faithful, costly and joyful love, which always puts my needs first.
How can we rightly praise and thank our God for such love? Nothing will ever suffice, but a delighted awareness of our debt, and continuing thankfulness for all that we receive is surely a fitting way to use the gift of life which we have been given. May God enable us more and more to receive and share this love, to his glory and the blessing of the world.