For some, the book and movie, The Shack, by Wm. Paul Young, has been life changing. It has helped many who have struggled with experiencing God as unapproachable and capricious. It is “good news” to discover that God deeply cares and strongly desires to be with us. He always acts with our best interests at heart—even when we don’t understand why bad things happen in our lives.
For some, The Shack became a stumbling block due its portrayal of God as a woman—an African American woman–and received criticism from many for what it did or did not biblically communicate. Our thoughts? We believe the picture of God in The Shack portrays the true heart of God from Scripture, especially when we, like Mack, experience suffering and tragedy in our lives and need to know his heart for us. This far outweighs any criticisms we have read.
God is neither male nor female. When we use the term mother heart to describe him, we are attempting to describe his personality—his very nature. Because we commonly refer to God as Father, we may find it difficult to think about God as having a “mother’s heart.” Yet we know that God created us in his own image, and he said that he created us male and female (Genesis 1:27). So, if we’re male and female and made in his image, then his nature must include both masculine and feminine characteristics.
Various Scriptures refer to this type of nurturing love of God. Here are a few of them:
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. (Isaiah 49:15–16)
I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. (Jeremiah 31:3)
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. (Jeremiah 1:5)
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13)
Here is one of the strongest expressions of God’s nurturing mother heart:
For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance. For this is what the Lord says: “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 66:11–13)
In The Shack, God was revealed as a mother because Mack (the main character) would never talk to God as father. His “father wounds” were too extreme for him to relate to God in this way. This happens for many of us due to childhood memories of our fathers–both what was wrongly done to us or what was lacking that was needed. Like Mack, we struggle with seeing God as Father–especially a “good father.” We heard Wm. Paul Young share in an interview that it took him a number of years to “wipe the face of his earthly father (or in other cases, mother) off the face of God.” This creates the worst kind of wall for us–a wall between God’s heart and ours.
When I (Jerry) gave my heart to Christ over 30 years ago, many things in my life began to change and I was very grateful for that. In time, however, there remained a very significant area that did not change, and that was how I saw my earthly father–not from my current adult view, but from the deeper child within. As a child, I was often afraid of my father, due to his outbursts of anger. In time, I began to transfer that fear from my earthly father onto my heavenly Father. My adult mind knew differently, but the “father imprint” that was already in place from childhood wasn’t able to simply adopt this view emotionally. Unfortunately in my case, the mother wound went even deeper. I went through much healing for this to change.
Whether you find it easy or difficult to relate to God as mother, it is important to believe and embrace the Scriptural truth that there is truly a mother’s heart in God. It is this God–who has both a father’s and mother’s heart–who longs to heal us. He is the one who created in us the need for a deep, foundational nurturing love, and he will heal all our wounds—including our father and mother wounds—and restore us to who he created us to be.
Remember, he not only loves you, he LIKES you–because he likes and loves everything he makes!
(Adapted from our book, The Missing Commandment: Love Yourself)
To learn about and to purchase Jerry and Denise’s books, Loving God, Loving Myself, and The Missing Commandment: Love Yourself, and related resources, click on the titles to go to Amazon.com or go to jerryanddenisebasel.com.
If you or someone you know is in need of finding a safe place for emotional and/or spiritual healing and restoration, please contact us at The Father’s Heart Intensive Christian Counseling Ministry through our web site at www.fathersheart.com or email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are located in the North Georgia Mountains in a retreat-oriented environment and have established opportunities for ministry to individuals or couples for periods of two to five-days in length.