As the youngest of four children, I’ve always received a certain amount of grief from my siblings for being spoiled. So the tale goes – the upbringing I received from my mother was egregiously pampered compared to the rigors of their childhoods. Now in my 30s, older, and having more carefully thought through their complaints, I’ve confirmed in my mind that, they were wrong and I’ve been right all along – I was never spoiled.
Nonetheless, I won’t for a second deny the love that my mother has for me. If you happen to be friends with her on Facebook, you know full well that she’s one of my biggest supporters. Virtually everything I say is gospel and virtually everything I do is golden, in a good way. I’m pretty sure that’s how mothers are supposed to be.
A mother’s love is about as unconditional as any you’ll find on the planet. I believe this is because mothers have expressed so much painful, sacrificial love for their children for such a long time that the constant, willful expression of love translates, over time, into the affection of love.
On a much, much smaller scale, it’s sort of like my affection for my dog. My dog does almost nothing for me. She costs me money. She requires my time and energy. She’s ruined my furniture and clothes. Despite this, I literally follow her around outside and pick up her excrement with a tiny baggy multiple times a day. This week alone I’ve nearly passed out several times from holding my breath while cleaning up after her. And yet, the more I do all this, the more I seem to love her. Why is this? Expressions of love lead to the affection of love. Romanticized Americans, by the way, often get this backwards. We tend to think the affection of love will bring about the expressions of love. Consequently millions of people are in “loveless” marriages and feel no affection. Why? Often because they haven’t shown love to their other spouse in ages. In other words, they haven’t expressed any love, and consequently, they feel no affection.
But back to mothers. For all of the bad press mothers get for being hypercritical and controlling, almost every mother I know has borderline unconditional affection for her children. Again, why? Because she has expressed such love throughout the child’s life.
A mother carries a child for nine months, tending to his/her needs ahead of her own. And then, through unthinkable pain and the shedding of blood (which I was entirely unprepared to witness for the first time as a 10th grade biology student), the mother brings life into the world. And the care and concern has just begun. Day after day (and night after interrupted night), the mother feeds, and cleans, and warms the child. Eventually she sends the child off to school, which breaks her heart despite the fact that it now, relatively speaking, frees her from some responsibility. Why? Because five years of constantly expressing love has created the overwhelming affection of love. More time passes and the child goes away to college, which brings about many tears. Yes, the same teenager who was a constant headache, at best ungrateful and at worst constantly complaining, will somehow be sorely missed. Why? Because the expression of love has created the affection of love. And then, one day, if the child becomes a pastor who writes a two bit blog, the mother reposts that blog on Facebook every week, thinking each entry worthy of a Pulitzer. I’m pretty sure that’s how mothers are supposed to be.
Fascinatingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, did you know that the Bible sometimes compares God to a mother? The prophet Isaiah, in particular, seems to favor this imagery (Isa. 42:14; 46:3-4; 66:12-13). Don’t misunderstand, Isaiah isn’t calling God female. He’s merely using admirable characteristics in which females tend to excel as descriptors of God. Perhaps most famously, he 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!” (Isaiah 49:15) God, through Isaiah, is suggesting something that we would deem nearly impossible. Can you imagine a mother forgetting that she was a mother WHILE she was breastfeeding her child?! Technically, I suppose it’s possible. Tremendously unlikely, yes. But it’s possible. And yet God says that as improbable as that sounds, the thought of him ceasing to love us is infinitely less likely. Why? Because his cosmic expression of love has created an endless affection of love.
As much as I screw up, it might be tempting to think that God would give up on loving me. But if that’s not the case with flawed earthly parents, how much less would that be the case with a perfectly loving God.
Just like our physical births, spiritually, you and I were birthed through great labor pains and the shedding of much blood. The labor was a crucifixion. The blood was our Savior’s. And now when God the Father looks at us through the lens of Jesus, he sees sheer perfection. He loves us unconditionally. We can do no wrong in his sight, for Jesus paid for all our wrong.
God is your biggest fan, your loyalist supporter, and cares for you like a mother. You can thank Jesus for that.