The almost universally loved theologian, St Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430) prayed, “If am Thy child, O God, it is because Thou gavest me such a mother”. The tireless, passionate English theologian and evangelist, John Wesley (1703-1791) who rode over 400,000kms on horseback preaching the gospel, gave away £30,000 and preached more than 40,000 sermons said, “I learned more about Christianity from my mother than from all the theologians in England”.
And finally, John Newton, a former slave trader who became a cleric and an abolitionist testified, “As I was her only child, she made it the chief business and pleasure of her life to instruct me, and bring me up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord”.
These words are more than personal tributes but tributes to motherhood itself.
God Himself pays homage to motherhood. In Isaiah 66:12-13, He likens His deep, abiding love for us to that of a compassionate, maternal, tender love of a godly mother toward her children: “For this is what the Lord says: ‘I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.’”.
In Isaiah 49:15-16, God responding to the charge that He has abandoned His people says, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me”.
Finally, we have the imagery of God being like a mother reinforced by Jesus as he makes his approach to Jerusalem weeping (Luke 19:41). In Matthew’s account of the same scene, we discover the reason for his sobbing, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (23:37).
Not in all the Old Testament has God been seen to enter so deeply into human experience.
Mother’s Day then isn’t just a celebration of mums and mother figures, but a celebration of who God is!
“Grow our faith in you God as a hen who gathers her chicks under her wings!”