For a long time I was pleasantly indifferent to the ubiquitous metaphor of God as our parent (usually as father). I was raised by two loving parents who did not damage the analogy for me. Adopting one daughter then birthing another kept my reaction to this metaphor status quo. Caring for infants or toddlers who were helpless and needy felt implicitly God-like to me.

Once my children became verbal and capable of defiance, this metaphor for God gripped me with intensity and will not let me go. God knows mothering independent-minded children! And I know God differently as I try to mother faithfully, too.

Mother or God?

She neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121). She alone hears the cries in the middle of the night, sensitized as she is to her children crying out. They are indeed capable of fixing the covers or finding the missing stuffed animal themselves, but they are determined that she must witness their distress. She responds as swiftly as possible, in order to soothe the upset child before their anxiety spreads to everyone in proximity. Once awake, her mind starts buzzing immediately with all the things she mustn’t forget: tomorrow everyone’s needs must be met. Now she cannot go back to sleep, so for her, tomorrow begins now.

Her repeated reassurance that she loves us—in words and deeds—is the foundation of our self-worth. Our ability to trust and attach to others is patterned after this first, primary relationship.

Do I describe God or mother? Both. So thoroughly both.

She has numbered every hair on our heads (Matthew 10:30). She knows when something is amiss, however small, even if we cannot yet name it. With even the smallest gesture, she lets us know she is always watching.


Her repeated reassurance that she loves us—in words and deeds—is the foundation of our self-worth. Our ability to trust and attach to others is patterned after this first, primary relationship.
Do I describe God or mother? Both. So thoroughly both.


She takes our laments, our furious anger, our doubt and our epithets and returns love in many forms. She carries all of our feelings, as well as her own. Meanwhile, most of what she does goes unnoticed, including the emotional labor. She balances preparing us for independence and protecting us with the ferocity of a mother bear.

She spends endless hours in the mundane tasks of raising children: reading the same stories over and over again, making up stories, pushing the swing, feeding us, washing us, sending us into the world with advice and admonishments. Every repetition is reassurance of love and dependability. Saying the same thing over and over again … . How many times must she say it before we act like we’re listening? In her better moments, she teaches us without us even noticing.

In return, we take her reputation out into the world and drag it around in front of everybody. Everyone who has contact with us draws conclusions from our appearance or our behaviors, about the one who is mothering us.

Her repeated reassurance that she loves us—in words and deeds—is the foundation of our self-worth. Our ability to trust and attach to others is patterned after this first, primary relationship.

Do I describe God or mother? Both. So thoroughly both.

Another metaphor

The metaphor of God the Father is not enough for me now. I now see God as the Mother. I know some families where egalitarian parenting is becoming a reality, but the image of father still carries cultural assumptions of distance, both physically and emotionally. Yet the Holy Spirit is as close as our breath. God anticipates our needs and loves us unconditionally no matter what, as attested to by the life, death and resurrection of Christ, and God the Parent’s relinquishment of Jesus for that purpose. Recognizing this is nothing new. During the Middle Ages, Julian of Norwich named ways each member of the Trinity mothers humankind.


Perhaps there are things that have always been true of God, but are only revealed to us as we recognize God mothering.


Becoming a mother is a complete transformation of one’s own identity. Bearing children can change our bodies past the point of no return. We might grieve or fight this, but we also would not change it for anything. I know that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. But I also wonder—since God is a fully invested, completely available, loving parent—if God has been changed by relationship with us. Perhaps there are things that have always been true of God, but are only revealed to us as we recognize God mothering.

I wonder if God ever struggles with the identity crises that come with motherhood, as some human mothers do? Does God ever wonder if bringing a child into this world or this family was the right choice, or if She specifically is capable of parenting? Genesis 6:6 echoes in my questioning heart, “The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.”

Does God discover inexplicable anger, which must have been pent-up and unrecognized by the force with which it exploded at the umpteenth repetition of some small act of a child’s defiance? Does God anticipate all the possible reactions and judgments of outsiders for how God’s children might present themselves in the world? Recognizing the actions of a mothering God has changed my understanding of God. And I hope and pray it gives me permission to be gentle with myself and others immersed in the transformative role of mothering. 

Lee Ann M. Pomrenke
Pomrenke is interim pastor at Hope Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minn. Her website is leeannpomrenke.com.

Read more about: