By Norris Burkes
Posted May 14, 2017
Do mothers really know everything? There was a time when my kids thought so; they just weren’t sure how she knew.
My wife tried to tell them that mothers see all because they have eyes in the back of their head. However, one day my preschool son, Michael, conducted his own investigation.
Becky and Michael were on the floor playing with trains when she felt his little hands pulling her hair back off her neck.
“Michael! What are you doing back there?”
“I’m looking for the eyes in the back of your head,” he said.
Michael was sure Becky saw everything, but he wasn’t sure how.
My oldest daughter, always the more religious child, suspected my wife’s omniscience was more spiritual. One day when Sara was about 4 years old, she decided to cut her own hair.
My wife discovered this horror from the strands of hair on her shoulder and asked “Sara! Did you cut your hair?”
Sara’s eyes flushed with tears, perplexed at how Becky so quickly knew what she knew.
“How did you know? Did God tell you?” Sara blurted with sobbing gulps of air.
“Mothers know everything,” my wife reasserted.
Sara’s childish suspicion highlights a deeper truth. Although mothers aren’t gods, there are some ways in which God can be like a caring mother.
For instance, Scripture compares God to a mother who would not forget the child from her womb suckling at her breast (Is. 49:15). Similarly, he has given birth to Israel (Deut. 32:18). These motherly metaphors aren’t meant to give God a gender, but rather to help us comprehend the complex aspects of his nature.
Theologians often describe God’s three essential characteristics as the “Three O’s.” The first “O,” as my daughter discovered, is omniscience. Like my wife, God knows all of his children. He knows each of us from the inside out, and he knows everything there is to know.
God is also omnipresent. Like a good mother, God has to be everywhere. Mothers go to soccer practice, daycare, and the doctor as well as a thousand other places. God goes to all those places, too, but he attends simultaneously.
Mothers can do a lot, but only God can pull off the third “O.” God is omnipotent, all-powerful, able to do all. This one prompts a lot of questions from people who ask, “If God is all powerful, why doesn’t he stop wars and famine?”
If I’m feeling like a wisecracker, I say, “I don’t know. Chaplains are in sales, not service.”
But seriously, I appreciate the truth spelled out by one of my theology professors who added a fourth “O” to the list.
My prof liked to say, “God is omni-competent.” That is, God is sufficiently competent to work things out in the end.
On this Mother’s Day weekend, I’m proud to tell you that the mother of my children exhibits many of these qualities.
Of course, I haven’t always been happy about it. Years ago, my newly wed wife came home from work to find the flowers I’d left for her on our dining table.
Displaying the omniscience of the Lord, she moved the flowers, knowing I must be hiding something.
“Norris! What have you done to our table?”
I had to confess that I’d been experimenting with a phosphorus campfire lighter when it burned through the Formica.
Fortunately, like the Lord, she forgave, too. The flowers helped, of course, but true forgiveness came five years later on Mother’s Day when I bought the oak table she’d always wanted.
Read Norris’ past columns at www.thechaplain.net. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 247, Elk Grove, Calif., 95759. Twitter @chaplain or call 843-608-9715.
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