Betsysrainbowquilt                  Betsysmourningquilt

I am right between Mother’s Day and Pentecost. Our pastor gave a trenchant sermon last week on the “mothering” aspects of the Holy, taken from the first story of the creation, allowing that to neglect the feminine force of God means we are missing out on part Hebrew word, Ruach, Spirit, present at the creation. This week we are anticipating celebrating Ruach once again, this time when She came visibly and audibly on the gathered ones to create a community called Church.

I am wondering what is particular about the Mothering Spirit this week. Our new-ish hymnal gives many choices:

  • Mothering Spirit, nurturing one/in arms of patience hold me close. (Jean Janzen, 1991)
  • Womb of life and source of being, home of every restless heart,/ in your arms the world’s awakened, you have loved us from the start. (Ruth Duck, 1986)
  • Like a mother you enfold me, hold my life within your own…(Shirley Erena Murray, 1986)

As a daughter and as a mother and grandmother, I recognize what it is like both to give and receive that kind of care. However, I must say in honesty that that kind of care was not only offered by  women, or by mothers. I have been graced to receive it from surprising places, from unpredictable places.

So what is it? In conversation with a friend this week, we tried to identify one who embodied a mothering Spirit in our faith journeys. Our attention fell naturally and the easily on the woman who had been our spiritual director for many years, Betsy, whose “Rainbow Quilt” and “Mourning Quilt” are attached. Words like Grace, hospitality, welcome, wisdom, joy, creativity, bubbled up between us. But more than anything else was the sense that she saw us and knew us for who and what we are and loved with unconditional graceful regard, without judgement, categorization or label. That was evident in many ways, and led me to recall others who have “mothered” me along the way.

In the days that followed I am thinking of other persons of mothering spirit:

  • a college counselor who took delight in me and imagined my future accomplishments
  • a pastor who was not threatened by my questioning struggle, but challenged me to pursue being all I was meant to be
  • a couple in my church who subsidized a trip to my first Christian feminist conference when I was a new mother of two small children
  • that one who sat with me as I wept over a deep, deep loss
  • that one who saw my mistake and helped me try over again
  • the one who taught me certain kinds of knowledge and skills with patience, always believing I could do it
  • the ones who listened without censoring to my stories, sometimes over and over again

So as I prepare to celebrate the Holy Spirit tomorrow, who gave birth to the Church and to all people, I am grateful for all the “mothering” I have had, whether it came from a man or a woman, an elder or child or peer, from a source I had hoped for or a complete surprise. All of them were holy. All in that moment saw me for who I was right then, and all were cheering me forward. I am blessed by that Mothering, and I want continue to keep Mothering, in Spirit and in Truth!