The Mothering Spirit
I had wondered why his face looked so unable to smile – not unfriendly, just frozen with some inner grief – this young man, my new neighbour, many years ago now. The reason quickly became apparent: the premature loss of his wife had left him sole carer of their young son. ‘My son is top priority now,’ he said, ‘and keeping the mortgage paid.’ And so he had moved to a job which not only paid enough for the mortgage, but where flexible working hours allowed him to meet his son out of school each day. This courageous lone father was actually a perfect example of ‘mothering’, giving his child all the security he could manage, caring for him with all the unconditional devotion and fierce protectiveness so typically associated with a mother.
This story is mirrored in today’s reading about the mother of Moses, who goes to incredible lengths to protect and nurture her son. This love of a mother for her child is recognised as the deepest of bonds, instinctive and indestructible from the start, and self-giving to the point of self-sacrifice. As we grow up, our mother’s love for us remains a strong rock to keep us steady, while in adulthood she may be our closest, most trusted friend. We do well to celebrate motherhood on Mothering Sunday, to say a special thank you for our much-loved mothers. Yet Mothering Sunday can be a difficult day too – for those who no longer have their mothers or were poorly mothered, for those who have lost a precious child or have never had children at all.
Although the mother/child bond is unique, it is important not to limit the idea of ‘mothering’. This has been recognised by the Mothers’ Union, with its membership drawn from men and women, whether parents or not, supporting families everywhere. And think of Jesus’ words from the Cross: ‘Mother, there is your son’, he said to Mary, and to St John, ‘There is your mother’. To regard the ‘mothering spirit’ as all-inclusive can be a valuable approach to this special day, for it is nothing less than a microcosm of God’s love.
St Julian of Norwich, as portrayed at Norwich Cathedral
The Bible is full of images of God’s mothering spirit, that unfailing, unconditional and vibrantly creative love he has for each one of us; and St Julian of Norwich, who experienced that love so profoundly, prayed quite naturally to ‘God, our Mother’ …
When the widowed father spoke of his son – that was when his face would light up in a broad smile. Like him, many others have found joy and fulfilment in the mothering spirit, whether caring or cared for, the spirit at the very heart of God.
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