My first glimpse of motherhood came on a day I sat alone in the sun, my little bare feet loving the warm dust of Mommy's vegetable garden. Yes, forbidden territory. Not only that, I was feasting on her fresh spring peas!
I must have been 4 or 5, but one thing was sure - at the table I would not eat peas. Captivated, I'd gazed at the blue sky, letting my eyes wander till they met hers looking out our window.
Mom had been watching me. Looking into her eyes felt like taking a long refreshing drink - only better. Like being recognized and honored all at the same time. She was not just loving me but wrapping me in an embrace that acknowledged my be-ing.
Perhaps this is what "to mother" really means: recognizing the dignity and intelligence, feelings and abilities of another as worth recognizing.
That day fresh peas became more than a cherished memory of my mother, of sacred stillness, of being sheltered under a near-cloudless sky and feeling the warm dust on my feet. That moment is set in time for me, framed with the sweet smell of flowers and dry earth. It was a brush of the feathers the Psalmist referred to when he implored God, "Hide me under the shadow of thy wings" (17:8).
And as palpable as this memory is, I've realized it's a mere glimpse of what God as Mother is for each of us.
In my late teens I began to see the groundwork that that and other moments had laid for me. Moments preparing me to grasp a higher claim to being mothered. Mom had passed away. And when it wasn't announced on local radio, I was somewhat startled. Yet that in itself was like an angel saying, "You'll go on, you'll be safe, she'll be safe - I am taking care of you both."
As a family we'd attended the Christian Science church, where God is understood as both Mother and Father. So I knew about God as being available as Mother. A few days after Mom's passing, I opened Mary Baker Eddy's "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." Just as my eyes had wandered that morning in the garden and rested on hers, so Science and Health became the window, opening for me a world to explore and find God as my ever-there Mother.
That particular day my eyes fell on this passage: "This is what is meant by seeking Truth, Christ, not 'for the loaves and fishes,' nor, like the Pharisee, with the arrogance of rank and display of scholarship, but like Mary Magdalene, from the summit of devout consecration, with the oil of gladness and the perfume of gratitude, with tears of repentance and with those hairs all numbered by the Father" (p. 367). It was as if "each hair of my head," every fiber of my being, was being loved. Tenderly embraced.
It's interesting that my need to be mothered was answered by the example of a woman seeking to honor Jesus by serving him. This Mary bathed Jesus' feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. No one knew that Jesus, in one of his final examples of serving - of mothering, if you will - would bathe his disciples' feet. After which he said, "Ye call me Master and Lord.... If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet" (John 13:13, 14).
I doubt I grasped even a particle that day of what that meant - but I felt the embrace of the mothering presence of the Christ saying, I recognize you right now, your importance and dignity, your worth. And your ability to serve and to love others.
My Mother-God, divine Love, has mothered/served me in unexpected but tangible ways - whether in Mom's gaze or the hugs and smiles from my own children. She's always listened and directed while affirming my worth, in sun and cloud. Then Jesus' example tells me that mothering and being mothered is the full circle of Love, of giving/receiving, of bathing one another's feet.