Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mother God?

I remember the first time I went to a UCC church, and in a prayer they referenced God as "our Mother" instead of "our Father". It made me very uneasy. I knew they didn't see God as a woman--I knew they were simply making a point of appreciating the motherly aspects of God--but I couldn't get past how wrong it felt. I understand with my mind that God is not some guy with a long gray beard sitting on a throne and throwing lightning bolts down every once in a while; but somewhere deep in my psyche, I know that image remains somewhat. It's possible that my biggest spiritual struggle is getting rid of that image.

I find it so ironic that the teachings of the apostle Paul help me most in this endeavor, because growing up in church, I always imagined Paul as somewhat of a woman hater. (I was actually told this by a church leader once, to explain all those nasty verses about the fall being Eve's fault) I struggled so much with those verses, but as I explained in my "Set Free" post, I finally found a book that set things straight. http://kellbell-justmythoughts.blogspot.com/2011/10/set-free.html

Here are two verses that helped me a lot in believing I was not inferior to men, or under their authority:

  ...there is not here Jew or Greek, there is not here servant nor freeman, there is not here male and female, for all ye are one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28)

 ...and submit to each other out of respect for Christ. (Eph. 5:21)

Although, being able to understand God as neither male or female--that's another story. God is our FATHER, which makes him MALE...how can that not be imprinted on my brain? Jesus was a MAN, and he is the only image of God, therefore feminine qualities do not reflect the nature of God. And yet, God does describe himself in feminine terms--quite often. God gives birth, God has breasts and nurses, God is like a woman making bread, a woman searching for a coin she lost (and she searches UNTIL she finds it...just sayin)--if we've grown up Christian we are aware of these metaphors. But we understand them as metaphors, of course, and yet we do not see the father images as metaphors, but as literal. Why? Does God have a penis? Of course not! But knowing God as gentle and compassionate--even meek, like a woman...well, I understand why it's so hard to know God in that way.

Back to Jesus being the image of God. Do we really believe this? I think the theology that Jesus came only to be punished in our place so that God could forgive us (as if he couldn't forgive before that...it seems He does a lot of forgiving before Jesus came) really hinders the power of Jesus claim:

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I have spoken to you I don’t speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me does his works. Trust me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or at least believe on account of the works themselves. I assure you that whoever believes in me will do the works that I do. They will do even greater works than these because I am going to the Father. (John 14:9-14)

And what kind of man was Jesus? Well, he certainly wasn't a 'manly' man. I bet in his day he was seen as quite effeminate. He treated women as equal to men, he wept, he washed his disciples feet, he didn't fight back. He said we need to learn from him, because of his meekness and humility. Is that a very good picture of who God is? Do we really believe that? I'm trying...but my belief is not anywhere where it should be, because if it was, I would be doing the works Jesus did. Me, going around healing people and raising the dead? Hard to imagine...just about impossible, really. In fact, on my own, I know it is impossible. But with God, (God made known through Jesus--not bearded lightning bolt God) ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE!

And Jesus having earnestly beheld, said to them, `With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.' (Matt. 19:25)