by Kathryn Christian
I lay in my bed that night, completely and utterly exhausted. It was a day not unlike others, but somehow the physical and emotional fatigue from my day was overwhelming. I have used a mantra for years as a meditational practice, the words of the ancient Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me…” I began to say the familiar words and stopped. They somehow did not feel right; they did not sink into the body or soul of my tiredness. Instead, what came forth from deep within my body was simply, “Mother.”
Whether I was invoking the Divine Mother, my own mother, other mothers I have known, or my own inner mother, I did not know, but the moment the word arose within me I felt a deep and healing calm settle over me. Mother. Peace. Breath. Calm. Comfort.
The image of God as mother is an old and familiar one to me. I have been writing music with feminine imagery of God for many years. The image has been a powerful one in my own journey of emotional healing and spiritual formation. Thankfully I was raised by a strong and loving mother who always incorporated a feminine perspective into all of life and spirituality. This perspective was what helped me survive in a traditional hierarchical church for much of my adult life. It was my private lifeline and provided balance to the strong wise father God that I also knew and loved. As I aged, the feminine imagery began to gain strength and depth in my spirit. More and more I found myself turning to and praying to Mother God.
Since becoming the mother of two daughters, I have gained a deeper understanding and appreciation for God as Mother, the one who gives us birth, who carries us, who gives us lifeblood, who nourishes us, and who offers comfort, strength, and wisdom as we grow.
The physical experience of growing and nourishing another human being is nothing short of miraculous. I remember feeling that first fluttering movement within my body when I was pregnant. Was there truly a human being living and growing and tumbling around within my body? I could scarcely take in the miracle.
I had two extremely long and difficult labors. I know God understands all about that.. Scripture uses the imagery of God’s birth pangs in bringing into being a new order. “I will cry out like a woman in labor, I will gasp and pant” (Isaiah 42:14). I was fully committed to a natural birth, and it took every ounce of physical and mental strength that I had to follow through, along with the strength and encouragement of my loving husband, family, and midwife. The process of giving birth brought the most wondrous outpouring of love and life into being that I had ever experienced. It was also an act of dying. In giving birth, my body felt like it went through a change so deep and depleting that I questioned my ability to recover. Of course I recovered. Jesus said, “When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world” (John 16:21).
And then there was breast-feeding. I breast-fed both of my girls for three long and wonderful years. For both mother and child, it was a taste of heaven to gaze into each other’s eyes and share such intimate skin to skin contact. It was also tiring and emotionally draining, but at the same time rewarding, as it always is when we give of ourselves to nurture another.
It made complete sense to me that when one of the girls was hurt, anxious or frightened, they wanted Mama. They quickly grasped the equation:
Mama = Comfort, love, warmth, safety, security, and food!
Wow! That is some powerful learning going on, the same powerful learning that I, too, had as a baby in my mother’s arms. I’m frightened, cold, lonely, angry, hungry, and Mom comes and picks me up, rocks me, holds me close to her, sings and even feeds me from her own body. No wonder food means comfort to many women and men as adults. Of course! Milk, food, warmth, physical contact were all a part of our care when we first entered this life.
So now it seems so basic to return to this image and imprint of Mother. I return to Mother God. I have been blessed with many images of the Divine which have helped me to pray and find comfort— gentle bird tucking me under her wings, warm breeze, solid rock, Brother Jesus, Father God, Sister Sophia, and others. All have provided something of value for different seasons and stages of growth in my life.
But the one image that I return to, that I cling to when I am in my most desperate moments, is Mother.. “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you,” God says in Isaiah 66:13.
God as Mother has fed me, sustained me, comforted me as I have done and continue to do for my own daughters. When I am in need, She comes to me with such quiet, powerful presence. It is very physical, strong and sweet. The way I feel at these moments is very similar to how I feel when I am outdoors enjoying the sweetness of the earth with the warm breeze on my face, the sweet fragrance of the air filling my nose, the kiss of the sun on my head. It is a very physical sensation as words fall away and I am in communion with the Spirit of Life.
I find myself returning to the Mother when I am full of sorrow. When something is threatening to overwhelm my spirit, I retreat to a quiet place alone and simply say, “Mother.” I sit. I receive. I feel Her quiet entering me. They say that when a baby is in distress, it only needs to be in physical contact with the mother’s energy of calm to be brought into her state of being, without words or any specific action. I simply put myself into Her state of being and I am enveloped.
When I face some great challenge, I turn to the strength of the Mother to bear down, push, give birth to something in my self or my world. God becomes like my midwife during labor, saying ‘Push! You can do it! Keep going! Don’t give up! Push harder! You are almost there!’
As I embarked on making my first CD, I felt such resistance to getting started, despite the fact that I felt called and anointed to write and record my music. I had to almost drag myself to my recording studio. God my midwife kept encouraging me, saying, ‘Get started. The time is here. You can do it. I will be with you. I have called you. Push! Harder!’
Another time that I find myself retreating to the love of Mother God is simply when I need to rest from the frantic busyness of life. There is so much to do in my own life and with a family that things can get chaotic quickly. Multiply that by the frantic pace of the world around me. After a day of running errands, attending to work, helping my kids, preparing meals, doing chores, and giving attention to all my other responsibilities, I find myself taking on an inner state of panic. I usually don’t catch myself until I am already deeply entrenched in a frantic state of mind. But at some moment I wake up to the self-realization, “Hey, my mind is going a thousand miles per hour. Slow down. Pray. Breathe. Mother.”
On my bed that night, I lay back and rested in the embrace of my original Mother, God.
I could feel my body and soul begin to slow to the rhythm of Her heartbeat. I could feel Her loving arms supporting me, rocking me gently. I felt peace seep into my spirit. I slept.
© 2009 Evangelical & Ecumenical Women’s Caucus – web exclusive 2009