The Motherhood of God
Reflecting that this is the month of Mothering Sunday I remembered this little story that resonated with my own experience and maybe yours, of being a mother and grandparent, living some distance away with the hope of a card a call or a visit:
Sue was glad when the phone rang and the number it showed was her eldest son’s mobile. She hadn’t spoken to him for a week or so, and was always glad to have a chat. She asked him how the sale of his house was going, and was a bit surprised to discover that he had already moved. She would have liked to known all the details, to have a look at the new house before work on it started, maybe to help with the clearing and packing. But she knew that he and his wife liked to do things their own way, and they would have managed it all perfectly well. After she put the phone down, for a moment she wondered whether she was a neglectful mother, missing whole areas of her son’s life. But really she knew that it had been right to let him go, to let him manage his own life and involve her as much or as little as he wanted or needed.
This story reminds me of the pain of that mother’s experience. Mary the mother of Jesus, had to watch her boy grow away from her, creating for himself a new family of followers, wilfully putting himself in danger, and finally painfully executed.
But Mary knew that the best thing that parents can do for their children is to let them go and do what they have to do for themselves.
God is spoken of in the Bible as a father, but also occasionally as a mother. If good human parents know that they need to let go and allow their children the freedom to grow up and make their own way, how much more must God our father, our mother, know that same truth?
Sometimes we are tempted to make the parenthood of God an excuse to adopt a childish attitude to our relationship with God. We expect God to tell us what to do, to answer all our prayers and manage our life for us. As God’s children, we evade our responsibilities. We go to church to be told what to think and what to do, and avoid the hard work of thinking and decision-making that goes with being an adult.
But God is a good parent, one who knows about giving up control and letting children grow up. God wants us to be adults, to make our own choices, even if that means we make a mess of things. Of course God also wants us to keep in touch regularly, to talk about what has gone right and what has gone wrong, and to get a fresh perspective.
God is still, as it were, waiting for the phone to ring!