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God or Mom: Who's More Important?

Photograph by Getty Images

The other day my daughter and I were at our local Safeway buying a big basket of important staples: milk, bread, zucchini, beer, Greek yogurt and dark chocolate covered raisins. A middle-age woman got in line behind us with just one thing in her hands: a bottle of Elmer’s Glue. "Do you want to go ahead of me?" I asked. She was totally taken aback and oddly thrilled; apparently she was not the recipient of random acts of kindness very often.

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As she moved in front of us, she leaned down to my 8-year-old daughter and said, “Follow in your mother's footsteps. She is a very nice lady. If you follow in her footsteps you'll be headed in the right direction. It doesn't matter about those footsteps you already took, what matters are the ones you are going to make. And trust me, follow hers." As she paid for her glue, our supermarket sage added, "They usually say follow in the footsteps of God, but on earth the closest thing to God you have is your mama."

My daughter listened to the woman with a smile on her face. While strangers talking to her generally freaks her out, she was surprisingly appreciative for this woman’s words about me, her mother. When the woman scurried out of the store, my girl held tight to my hand, looked up at me with her big green/blue eyes and said, “That woman was nice.” But I was slightly shaken by the meeting, the words, “On earth the closest thing to God you have is your mama,” echoing in my mind. Was this an epiphany or just a concept that hadn’t occurred to me?

No one can be 100 percent sure that God exists, but we all are sure that mothers exist.

First, I should get this out of the way. I am not religious, but I do have a deep respect for people’s beliefs. OK, back to the "God = mom" thing. Let’s break it down: Your mother gives you life, your mother cares for you, your mother nourishes you both physically and mentally, your mother loves you, and your mother gives you guidance and your moral compass that will last a lifetime. These attributes may not be true 100 percent of the time. Sometimes there is no mother, or the mother in question isn’t doing her job, or the mother is just not “that mom.” But in many cases, mothers do fill all those roles and more. When I remember my own mother who passed away 10 years ago, I see in hindsight that I did see her as a God; the kind of God that she herself believed in—an all-loving, all-knowing, kind, wonderful being. Now that she is no longer physically here, I still sense her, as one does when believing in a God.

No one can be 100 percent sure that God exists, but we all are sure that mothers exist. While many go to God with their problems, many of us just go to our mothers. And in turn, we want our own children to come to us.

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To play the devil’s advocate: Who should be more important, God or mom? The being that we know here in reality or the being that many of us hope exists? Was my supermarket sage correct in saying, “On earth the closest thing to God you have is your mama”? And, if so, we moms certainly have some big shoes to fill. I asked my own girl what she thought of mommy being like God. “Yeah, I guess,” she said with a bit of uncertainty. "But you are more God like when you give me chocolate.” At least I’m partway there.

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