At the beginning of this year, my mother suffered a subdural haematoma, bleeding in the space between the skull and the brain. This sent her to the hospital for several weeks of neurocritical care and rehabilitation. She’s been at home recovering for several more weeks and adapting to life with new limitations.
Mom was hospitalized at Riverside Methodist Hospital, the same hospital where she gave birth to me. It was quite strange spending the night there together again after 45 years! It was a tough night. I spent the night in the hospital chair beside her. She woke up once confused, wondering where she was and wanting to go home. I thought to myself how much she endured for me, held her hand, and tried to reassure her.
During that stay, I thought a lot about the maternal bond and the nature of God, more particularly God as mother. Christian Scripture and tradition teach that both men and women are made in the image of God. So, Mom is an image of God, and she’s the first image I ever knew. She has remained a constant image of God for me throughout my life.
I know not everyone has this same bond with their mother. Some may have to work to reconcile their relationship with their mother. Others may work to build it with an adoptive mother or child. But all of us… every human ever… came from a mother.
While at the neurocenter with Mom, I thought—If memories are never truly forgotten entirely in the brain, your brain knows that your mother’s hand was your first tender touch.
Very likely other women welcomed you too, into this ‘family of children of mothers’ that we all belong to. We simply cannot erase the maternal bond.
I also thought that Jesus, incarnation of God, although born male, drew his humanity out from a woman, Mary. She was his first tender human touch as well. Jesus nursed from the breast of a woman, and knew the care and nurture of a mother. Mary experienced seeing herself in him and feeling his persecution and agony as only a mother could.
Interestingly, the very image of new birth in the Gospels, is a maternal, not paternal image. This was clear when Jesus spoke with a religious man named Nicodemus. Jesus explicitly described a parallel of our childbirth by a mother and God giving birth to us spiritually.
I only experience this bond as a man, a son, and now as a husband and a father. On most days, I hope to achieve even a fraction of the godly nurture, care, discipline, forgiveness, and grace that are embodied by my mother. And, I’m grateful for the mother of my own children, and the bond she shares with them.
So when I pray this weekend (for Mother’s Day), I will not only pray the familiar, “God our father,” but will pray, “God our mother.” Because for me, to leave that out… would be to not experience God fully as God’s child, and it would not honour the image of God my mother has been.