It was a big cousin sleep out—eleven children stacked side-by-side like logs in a corduroy road. Two rooms of our lower story were transformed into a storm-tossed sea; waves of sleeping bags and pillows and blankets hid children tucked in for a safe voyage through the dark hours.
Sometime in the middle of the night, there was a small sound downstairs. I heard it—like a man underwater, far away and in another world. It had been a long day and Melissa and I were tired. I didn’t give the sound any concentrated thought.
To the contrary, Melissa heard the sound, instantly flung back the covers, sprang out of bed, sped down the hall, then down the stairs—to the side of a little one in distress.
Different couples work out night-needs in different ways, but the unspoken arrangement in our home has been that Melissa is the first-responder. If there is a big need, I will come running, but otherwise, stay in bed and anticipate her return.
Our arrangement probably stems, in part, from Melissa’s incredible sensitivity to the smallest cry of a troubled child. I cannot even begin to recount the number of times that she has performed a mission of mercy in the middle of the night—from helping a sick child to assisting someone to the bathroom (who wasn’t able to wake up enough to get there). I’ve participated in a number of these events, but not usually with the same verve. She can hardly stay in bed—while I hope the difficulty resolves on its own.
I’d say that crying was one of the things that we were unprepared for when our first child was born. Nobody warned us about how much babies cry! And crying makes Melissa’s hair stand on end. Something must be done to remedy the problem, and it must be done right now.
Any child could be glad to have so attentive a mother—self-sacrificing and kind.
The care of our mothers, their alertness to our needs combined with unselfish devotion, gives us good reason to magnify their job at home. My boyhood was filled with happy experiences with a Mom who took genuine interest in my little world. The way she listened to my ramblings told me that what I thought was important. The way she cheered me on let me know that she thought I could do it. Her open arms were always ready to encircle me in a moment of sorrow or defeat.
Mom was present. She was there when the three of us boys needed her. Though we have our own homes now, we still cherish her approbation and still want to know she thinks we can “do it.”
With the beauties of motherhood in mind, it is little wonder there has been a move to feminize God. The most comfortable and safe and happy things in life are often associated with a mother. But God is not our mother.
He is infinitely more.
We stand for the Biblical truth that God is our Father, and a Father like no earthly father could ever be.
But in our zeal to uphold His Fatherhood, it’s easy to minimize those qualities of God that we typically associate with mom.
We emphasize His strength: We know He is an Unassailable Warrior conquering every enemy. “. . . He put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped Himself in zeal as a cloak. According to their deeds, so will He repay, wrath to His adversaries, repayment to His enemies . . .” (Isaiah 59:17-18).
We fear His holiness: We know He does according to His own pleasure and follows the dictates of His own counsel alone. “. . . He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see.” (I Timothy 6:15-16).
We ponder His greatness: We know He thinks completely “outside the box,” that we trace only the edges of His ways. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
But for all the greatness and power and glory of our God—and He is the superlative of every majestic attribute—He is also the God who understands our need to get home in a snow-storm and the sorrow over a dead kitten and the disappointment when we fail—again. We misrepresent God when we reduce His character to the fire of justice by forgetting His balm for the weary and His support for the heavy-laden.
Even in the face of death, our God stands at the tomb and weeps with us. But His tears are, in one sense, very unlike our mothers’ empathetic tenderness and soft embrace in sorrow.
Pause for a moment and consider.
If you’re reading in a flurry or can’t remember anything else I’ve said, ponder these questions: What is it that makes the comforts of God so solid, the tenderness of God so effective, the beauty of God so stable, the mercy of God so real?
It is the strength of God that makes His comfort more than any mother could ever offer a beloved child—He has the authority to resolve every problem. He can raise Lazurus after he weeps with Mary.
Those arms of everlasting power make His tenderness more than just a pleasantry—the hand that cups the mighty oceans now brushes away your tears.
And that unapproachable light of the holiness of God?—He who knows all things and requires full payment for every sin, whose character demands justice—has paid the infinite price with His own blood.
God is not a kind but powerless well-wisher. He takes your sorrows and troubles and needs upon Himself—and deals with them according to His omnipotence.
I would love to be able to know what was in the mind of Jesus as He stood weeping at the tomb of Lazarus. What was He thinking as He contemplated the death of His friend? Perhaps one day, we will fully understand.
But in the meantime, we know this: Jesus did not weep because Lazarus’ death stole a friend who would never be restored. Jesus’ sorrow was not the grief of someone who had lost what is unrecoverable. He knew that in moments He would raise Lazarus from the dead. That had been His plan all along.
His tears were not tears of helplessness; they were not tears of empathy minus ability.
Combine the highest and best attributes of every mother you have ever known. Think of every midnight rescue, every tender embrace, every wound gently dressed and kissed for good measure. Think of the mother rooting from the sidelines at the big game, the mother sacrificing and giving, the mother who simply enjoys her child because her love cannot but take pleasure in this precious one. Add together all the things you love best about mothers in the highest ideal . . .
. . . Then join those virtues to unconquerable strength and unflagging determination and spotless purity and absolute authority.
You begin to have a tiny picture of our God.
No, God is not our mother, He is more. He feels our pain . . . and deals with it. He knows our temptations . . . and does not give us more than we can take. He understands our private burdens . . . and invites us to bring them to the very throne of the Sovereign King.
He is our Father, but He magnifies the office of earthly father and mother in tending His own.
He is even there for us in the middle of the night when we are confused and disturbed and in need of someone to hold our hand. He wipes our tears, and in His good time and by His power, He turns the night of weeping to the morning of joy.
The Lord your God who goes before you
will Himself fight for you,
just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes,
and in the wilderness,
where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you,
as a man carries his son,
all the way that you went until you came to this place” (Deuteronomy 1:30–31).
© Copyright 2011 by Robert G. Robbins