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Time was, the duties of nurturing, cherishing, and comforting were carried out primarily by mothers. People inclined to identify those activities as having divine origins can make an easy connection between motherhood and God; God as Mother makes sense in this line of reasoning. After all, a human mother expresses nurturing in her mothering.

Time was, also, when courage, strength, protecting, and providing were seen mostly as within a father's sphere. Identifying those qualities spiritually also points to a source in God. God as Father is a natural conclusion. After all, a human father expresses protecting in his fathering.

But the time is now long past when nurturing and cherishing were considered uniquely and exclusively female, or that protecting and providing for a family were seen as uniquely and exclusively male activities. With the role switching that has occurred in many societies in recent decades-which has included the widespread entry of women into the workplace and the rise of the single-parent family-old clichs no longer hold. Lines that once clearly divided male-female responsibilities in a two-parent family have become blurred. In many families those lines have ceased to exist at all. Qualities once connected with "father" or with "mother" are no longer easily compartmentalized.

So now, what of God? What of divine motherhood and fatherhood? If the characteristics of human parents have become so fluid, do the terms Mother and Father still tell us anything unique about the nature of God?

Yes! Both Father and Mother as names for God tell us that we all can trace our source to God. It is practical and invaluable for us to know God as both Father and Mother.

Even though these terms for God are distinct, they are also inescapably linked. Yes, humanly there are many fatherless households. And there are some motherless households. But divinely, there is no Father without Mother because God is one, not two. And it is together that these two distinct-yet-synonymous terms for God are often used by Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science. In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, published in 1875, she wrote: "Father-Mother is the name for Deity, which indicates His tender relationship to His spiritual creation" (p. 332). We are especially in need of recognizing this "tender relationship" in this age heaped with broken relationships. The fact that God's divine parenting goes on unbroken is an immense source of inspiration and healing.

The reality of spiritual care and provision-of gentle encouragement and unchallengeable strength-comes from our Father-Mother, God. God is the sure source you can always turn to, the sure source from which all of us originate. As The New English Bible translates a passage from the book of Romans, God is "Source, Guide, and Goal of all that is . . ." (11:36).

While there is no Bible record indicating that Christ Jesus referred to God as Mother (he regularly spoke of God as Father), there is every indication that he knew and cherished God's comforting, nurturing qualities. Jesus almost certainly would have been aware of the passage in Hebrew Scripture in Isaiah, where God is recorded as saying, "As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you" (66:13). His constant and loving relationship with his Father-Mother God is the example to help us find our own.

God's love-a very real protecting and nurturing care-comes ceaselessly to each of us. Because God is Father-Mother, God is more than just a presence we can depend on for help. As the immediate and direct source of our being, God's fathering and mothering presence provides instant response to our immediate needs, and answers to all our searching for the truth.

Honour thy father and

thy mother, as the Lord

thy God hath commanded

thee; that thy days may

be prolonged, and

that it may go well

with thee.

Deuteronomy 5:16

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