- At the Desert Retreat House -
On this Mother’s Day I am reflecting on the language that is often used when people talk about “God.” Obviously our words about “God” can never accurately “capture” or describe who “God” is because “God” is an utter mystery unable to be defined by ideas or contained in words. On the other hand, human beings communicate with one another through the use of words and symbols; and so, of course we need to rely on words to develop our albeit limited images and depictions of "God" in order to help us communicate with one another about what we think “God” may be.
As I reflect on the images people have constructed about “God,” it becomes pretty clear to me that these depictions almost always reflect the culture and society that creates them. So, for example, historically, people who have been ruled by an emperor have often created images of “God” as a Supreme Universal Emperor.
As I think about it, all three major “Abrahamic” faith traditions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) had their origins in highly patriarchal cultures, where men were clearly in charge and women were relegated to a secondary role in the society. So, it is understandable that the images of “God” and language about God coming out of those traditions would be highly masculine - God is an everlasting King, a Father in heaven.
I am reminded of something Episcopal Priest and author, Barbara Brown Taylor once said:
The supreme challenge
is to see God’s image in one that is not in our own image,
for only then can we see past the reflection in the mirror
to the “God” we did not make up.
On this Mother’s Day it seems to me that in our contemporary society, we would all do far better to “go beyond” all the masculine words and male "God" images and add more feminine imagery to our theological lexicon. In fact, as I see it, feminine and motherly images of “God” may prove to be be far better in helping us grasp something of what may be the true nature of “God”
When I think about “God” as a gentle mother, tender, intimate, warm, compassionate, embracing and kind, “God” the Mother who “goes to bat” for her kids, always advocating for them instead of standing in judgment against them, these images are far closer to how I have come to experience who “God” is and what “God” is all about in my life.
On this Mother’s Day I also see yet another value in introducing more feminine imagery into our language about “God.” The images we construct about God not only reflect the culture but they also influence the way a culture sees itself. Obviously, if God is male, what does that teach women and girls about their own worth and value?
In her book The Dance of a Dissident Daughter, author Sue Monk Kidd puts it this way:
The core symbols we use for God
represent what we take to be the highest good.
These symbols shape our worldview, our ethical systems
and our social practices - how we treat one another.
There is something infinitely sad about little girls
who grow up understanding (usually unconsciously) that
God is male because male is the most valuable thing to be.
Obviously “God” is neither a man nor a woman, but it seems to me that a more conscious effort at intentionally using more motherly and more feminine “God” language would not only present a better icon of “God,” but would also provide a more balanced view of the equal dignity of women as well as men in our society.
Happy Mother’s Day!