God’s Love In Human Arms

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen): A Father’s As Well As a Mother’s Love

The father in the story of the prodigal son is mother as well. His running out to welcome his son, his embrace and kisses; his offering of the best robe, the ring, and the sandals; and his throwing a party are not the typical behavior of a distant patriarch. They express so much tenderness, nurturing care, and self-effacing forgiveness that in them we see both motherly and fatherly love fully present.

The perfect love of our heavenly Father includes as well as transcends all the love that a father and mother can have for their children. We may think about the two hands of God embracing us as a mother’s hand and a father’s hand: one caressing, consoling, and comforting, the other supporting, encouraging, and empowering. We too are called to be father and mother to those who want to come home.

from Bread for the Journey, 5 July 2007

One of the problems with the Christian faith is the language of God the Father. Now, don’t misunderstand, the Bible says that, and so do I. However, the cultural baggage that goes with that can often provide an unconscious expectation of relationship with God. Henri Nouwen’s calling God’s arms separately in terms of human parental relations (still doesn’t cover God’s feelings for us adequately) helps balance that out somewhat.

I will not acquiesce to the current tendency in some circles to call God a her, or some other gender-neutral term, but I will acknowledge that failing to adequately address the (again, from a human perspective) “motherly” love of God for us, can turn many away.