Mother Lord

That’s my new term of endearment for God.

In my recent meditations on the writings of Julian of Norwich, I have relished her prolonged contemplation of Jesus as our Mother: how he gives birth to us twice, in creation and on the cross, and how he tends us day by day.

Who describes Jesus’s mothering of us better than Julian? My botanical illustration is of serviceberries on a tree near my home.

Julian’s trinitarian theology is clear and sound: the three Persons are One, and what is done by any of them is done by the one God. What one Person is, all three are together. Thus in other places she writes that God is both Father and Mother.

To my sorrow, I remember as a young adult scoffing along with a friend who had visited a “liberal” church where prayers were often addressed to “Father-Mother God.” Now I think such forms of address are true and rich, fully consonant with scripture and various strains of Christian tradition.

In my own prayer life I have tended in the past couple of decades to opt for “God”—usually “dear God”—as a gender-neutral term of address. But I’ve been longing for something warmer, a phrase that expresses more of who God is to me, to us.

Daneen Akers makes an excellent case for switching to “Mother God” and ditching the male terms and pronouns altogether. Of course she’s not the only advocate for this; on the page I’ve linked, you can download a helpful PDF she put together quoting other thoughtful Jesus followers who have made this change.

Somehow my heart has been wanting a term that clashes a little more, calling attention to itself, yet one that could come to feel natural on my tongue. This past weekend I hit upon “Mother Lord,” and it feels just right. Lord has a feudal feel, but it’s what the biblical translators continue to use, and its Aramaic equivalent was what the first disciples called Jesus most often. I like retaining this familiar title because it conveys honor and trust and glory. And I have used it all my life.

As a child I called my mother Mommy, and as a teen I switched to Mom. Mother feels different, larger. It speaks of intimacy and belovedness, respect and dignity. Our Lord is Mother to me and to my mother and father, to all generations of humankind. She is our Source, giving us life, tending us, challenging us, calling us home.

“Mother Lord” makes me chuckle a little, and it seems to hold my whole ongoing journey to know God more.

Giving God names that reflect our awe and affection is a very scriptural thing to do. Have you come up with a special name for God? I would love to read it.

Full of endless heavens

Twilight in my neighborhood

For a few years now I have been pondering the words of Julian of Norwich, the medieval woman who at age 30 received a series of “showings” or revelations of the love of God. She dedicated the rest of her life to praying through these visions, asking God questions about them, deciphering their meaning. In fact after she wrote them down, she began writing them again as she understood more.

Julian moved into a small anchorhold–a monastic cell built against a wall of St. Julian’s Church in the city of Norwich, England. Another woman lived in an adjoining cell and took care of her practical needs so that Julian could live as an anchorite, mostly in solitude for prayer and writing but in the afternoons receiving visitors who came to her porch window to seek her counsel.

I feel a great kinship with Julian, not because I possess comparable wisdom and dazzling intellect but because I too have had deep experiences of God’s love. Julian’s insights speak to my heart. They are carrying me through these years of terrifying climate change and pandemic and war and the violence of white supremacy. Julian is an older sister who holds my hand, grieves with me, and helps persuade my anxious body to rest in love.

The title I chose for this post is from an extended meditation on a brief vision Julian received. A lord (remember, she lived in medieval England) is sitting on a throne with a servant nearby. The lord asks the servant to take care of a certain task, and the young man leaps up to obey–but immediately stumbles and falls. Instead of berating him for his awkwardness, the lord descends from the throne and kindly takes his hand to help him up.

Julian is fascinated by this parable/vision and spends several pages interpreting it. The lord, of course, is God, and the servant is the paradigmatic human being, Adam. The first sin committed by the first humans in the book of Genesis has long been called “the fall.” But Julian is moved and astonished to see how gently God responds to Adam’s offense. This was not the God portrayed in most church sermons in her day.

Julian shares other insights as she digs into this parable–too much to explain here. What I’ve been carrying around in the notes app on my phone is one phrase: within the lord she sees “a great refuge, long and wide and full of endless heavens.”

Every time I read it, I must stop and take a deep, glad breath.

God is some kind of a river, some kind of a sky, some kind of a forest in which every vulnerable created thing is welcomed and protected.