Life with Jesus

A Holy Home Fire

It was 1:04am.

I rubbed my bleary eyes and slid my feet out of bed onto the carpet of used tissues, the CPAP alarm repeatedly crying out over the baby monitor. I padded across the hallway and quietly cracked open the door. I sidestepped the spilled basket of toys and crept across the dark room. I peeped over the edge of the crib to see my toddler laying quietly in bed, awake, watching me. I leaned down and felt his forehead. The fever had returned, thanks to the flu that’s making its way through the members of our house.

I crushed some fever meds and gave them to him and left him lying in his crib, and ran downstairs to make a bottle of Gatorade. I crept back up the stairs, careful not to wake Alex or my older son, and stole back into the baby’s room, lifting him into my arms.

We settled into the big, comfortable rocking chair nestled in the corner of his room and he sat back to drink, his chills eventually subsiding as his body warmed against mine.

The lyrics to a new Audrey Assad song were stuck in my head. She’s rewritten The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Mine eyes have seen the glory
Of the coming of the Lord
You are speaking truth to power
You are laying down our swords
Replanting every vineyard
Til a brand new wine is poured
Your peace will make us one.

I’ve seen you in our home fires
Burning with a quiet light
You are mothering and feeding
In the wee hours of the night
Your gentle love is patient
You will never fade or tire.
Your peace will make us one.

In the beauty of the lilies
You were born across the sea
With a glory in your bosom
That is still transfiguring
Dismantling our empires
Till each one of us is free
Your peace will make us one.

Glory, glory, hallelujah.
Glory, glory, hallelujah.
Glory, glory, hallelujah.
Your peace will make us one.

Last night, the lyrics “You are mothering and feeding in the wee hours of the night” wouldn’t leave me.

I remember when I first read a blog post by someone who used feminine pronouns for God. It was several years ago and I felt offended. How dare a stranger on the internet try to sway my opinion of God.  I slammed the laptop shut and went to find Alex so I could vent.  I think maybe my anger covered up some fear because I found the idea intriguing, if rather heretical.

Sometimes, I get the sense that people who are new to this whole “God could be female” thing see a female God as a usurper, warrior goddess who storms into the throne room to cut off the head of male God and take her place on his throne while Jesus and Gabriel sit stunned, challenging anyone around her to call her “Father God”

That ain’t it.

Female God is not Xena Warrior Princess God (the same take-no-shit God that I grew up with, but with boobs).

Through my deconstruction, I felt the need to distance myself from the power-hungry heavenly dictator God I had worshipped in my youth, or at least detox from that version of God. I was tired of the shaming and the edicts and the judgments. That God sits in heaven and points his finger, making demands that, if unmet, result in eternal consequences. That is the God that humans can’t gaze upon without dying.  That God says, “I told you so” while you struggle through the consequences of sin. That is the God who strikes fear in the heart of those who encounter him, who strong-arms and steamrolls.  That is the God who is about being the biggest, the mightiest, the most powerful.

As my lips caressed my son’s forehead, searching for relief from the fever that ailed him, Audrey’s lyrics ran quietly through my mind. I thought about how mothering is largely undervalued. My son will not remember the countless number of times that I woke up in the night to care for him. Hell, he didn’t even have the decency to thank me this morning.

The work that mothers do often goes unseen and underappreciated. We thrum along in the background, making appointments, fielding phone calls and emails, scrawling things on the calendar, making a note that we’re out of yogurt, always keeping our ears tuned to the tumultuous emotional lives of our children and spouses, worrying, planning, carrying unseen burdens. Mothers often receive the brunt of our children’s stress, hurt hearts hurling words towards safe people.

I needed God to be more like a mother. I needed a God that was less interested in leaning down from heaven and yelling orders and more interested in getting down in the shit with me. I needed a God who sees me, even in the inglorious work of putting a sick baby back to sleep.

“I’ve seen You in our home fires, burning with a quiet light.

You are mothering and feeding in the wee hours of the night.”

I sat in the dark, rocking my baby, while I waited for his breathing to deepen, thinking about the ways that Mother God carries me, even when I don’t acknowledge her.

Maybe I’m in my petulant, rebellious child phase, the one where Mother God couldn’t possibly know or understand what I’m going through.  Certainly, there are days where I roll my eyes, flashing “whatever” in 90s sign language, slamming my bedroom door while screaming, “You’ll never understand!”

Still, at night, when I cry out, Mother God steals down the hallway and into my room. She runs her cool hands over my forehead, whispering how much she loves me, even at my most unlovable. As my body relaxes into her bosom, I slip back to sleep, safe in the knowledge that I am loved and understood and seen.

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah

3 thoughts on “A Holy Home Fire

  1. My most favorite holiday is Thanksgiving because it is an annual reminder to PAUSE and PONDER what I am thankful for from both recently and long ago.

    My second most favorite holiday is Mother’s Day because it is an annual reminder to PAUSE and PONDER the amazing contributions of both my mom and ALL the moms.

    In my heart, I celebrate that day not just as Mother’s Day for my mom was wonderful but also as Mothers’ Day for all moms. Note the spelling differences.

    During the days before Mother’s Day there are lots of special videos and blog posts to honor mothers. That is lovely. But the reality is that moms are on the front lines 365 days a year. Their tiny sacrifices make this world a better place.

    I have been collecting pins on Pinterest under the board named Moms are Great and I tell moms to go there ANY time during the year to get a boost.

  2. I don’t think I’m up in arms about God being she, but for me, it is either/or. He can be Father God or she can be Mother God because we can’t hold them in those binary constrictions. I like reading this reminder of this side of God. It’s true that in the conventional American Christian tradition, it’s glossed over. But whether we actively acknowledge it or not, both are true.
    And I know that for some, seeing him as a father is hard because of the relationship they had with their earthly father. I think the same could be true if the relationship with their earthly mother was contentious. Which is why he/she is both and can be both. God is bigger than our definitions of them. He/She is infinite. And I’m glad he/she is. I never want to get to the end of understanding him/her.

    Great post, as always. We have also had a rough, sicky time, and this week has been really hard for some other reasons as well. Hang in there, mama.

    • Agreed. Nadia Bolz Weber says that her church uses all of the pronouns- “just enough to make everyone uncomfortable”, which I love. Of course, God doesn’t have a gender like we think God does, like you said, God is unknowable, but in detoxing from “God is male. God is male. God is only male”, thinking of God as feminine has been deeply satisfying. 🙂

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