Mother God-giving birth
You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.Deuteronomy 32:18
For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labor, I will gasp and pant. Isaiah 42:14
Amy Marga, associate professor of systematic theology at Luther Seminary, suggests that the motherly images of God in the Bible–take us through all the motions of a mother’s work—beginning with the labor pains of birthing a child. And I am going to borrow Marga’s beautiful language “mothering work”.
I believe the language of “Mothering work” helps us connect to the motherly images of God that begin with a birthing process as all new things do–so as not to limit this imagery to that of a mother with her child. For example, “mothering work” for a writer may begin when an idea appears and begins to shape into a new story; “mothering work” for an artist may begin when the paint brush hits the canvas; “mothering work” for a lawyer may begin when a client enters their office; “mothering work” for a doctor may be when they desire a cure for an “un-curable” disease. As a matter of fact that the Hebrew word for “maker”–used in Genesis “the maker of heaven and earth” is the same word used in Genesis 4:1 when Eve “I have produced a man with the help of the Lord.” God gave birth to creation, just as woman gives birth to a child.
I confess however, that when I read these scriptures, I have flashbacks of hospital rooms and pain…3 times! I have flashbacks of the terror of knowing that someone new was about to be born from me-but I didn’t know how long it would take or when she would come or what I would go through for the process of birth to be complete. I have flashbacks of contorting my body in all manner of shapes and positions to find relief from the pain. I have flashbacks of wanting more than anything for the process to end and for God’s new creation to be placed in my arms. And to be honest, one of the things that got me through the labor pains was knowing that at the end of all this struggle–there would be something beautiful to hold.
Consider for a moment something that you have been a part of that has come to life: maybe it’s a project at work, maybe it’s a child or niece or nephew, maybe it’s a piece of music, maybe it’s a ministry you have been a part of from its conception, maybe it’s the development of a space that helps us celebrate our history, maybe it’s a committee with an important task to accomplish. Think about all of the work that it took to bring that “something” to life. Perhaps it was painful at times. Perhaps it was painful a lot. Perhaps it took forever. Perhaps you tried three or four times before you got it right.
Now…after all that work, think about what it was like when that “thing” took shape or was born so to speak. How did you feel? Were you relieved? Did you feel like you had accomplished something? Were you worn out? Were you proud of what you had done? You now have a connection, an ownership to that “thing” you gave birth to. How much greater is God’s love for us.
The image of a God that gave birth to us and that bore us shows us a God that has suffered pain for us, who has been patient with us, who has not given up on us–her creation. What a deeper connection we can have with a God that also experiences what we experience in the journey of life.
I believe that there is no better way to describe one who gives birth to something new than a Rock!! It takes a solid Rock to conceive something or someone new and to struggle with it all the way to completion. The song of Moses in Deuteronomy implores the people of Israel who have turned away from the Rock–the one who bore them and gave them birth!!
This image of “motherwork” is important for all humans to be mindful of because our life is a cycle of beginnings and endings. At the end of the birth pains, at the end of the labor, something beautiful is born. Birth pains end and new life begins. God continues to give birth and continues to be faithful until the labor pains are over–in hopes to hold on to something beautiful and new. Amen