I grew up with a mother and a father in my home, and while I’m so grateful my father
was present, kind, and available, it was my mother who was nurturing, compassionate,
and strong. My mother has a long history of steadfast prayer, where she bends her
thoughts and attention of her children towards God. She goes on long walks, praying
with every step over her children. While I’ve learned much about humanity and the
Divine from my father, it was my mother who modeled for me the Divine as a never
ending flow of energy and love encompassing everything and everyone. It was my
mother who never stopped praying over her kids.
The Abrahamic God is primarily known as Father. When speaking about God, most people use masculine language to describe God. I found that anything beyond masculinity doesn’t quite belong. If someone uses feminine language to identify God’s attributes, many Christians feel squeamish like they’re crossing boundary lines into pagan territory. Yet the Bible speaks about God creating humans in the image or nature of God (“In the image of God, God created humans; male and female God created them” Gen. 1:27). Meaning God transcends gender and still includes gender. Why do we tend to view God as only masculine? God is not a “he” or a “she” or an “it.” We just don’t have language strong enough to take God out of the box we have put God in. God has both masculine and feminine attributes, yet is neither male or female. Our language and understanding is insufficient to describe God.
In the book of Exodus, we see Moses asked by God to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Moses, being familiar with the many Egyptians gods, was pretty confused about who a god who approached and communicated with humans was. So Moses asks this burning-bush-of-a-god what this god’s name is. The bush replies, “I AM who I AM. Tell them I AM sent you.” This burning bush did not classify God-self as male or female, but as “I AM.”
There was no language box that anyone could stuff God into, although I think that’s what we’ve been doing all along.
The God who reveals Love and Truth through creation, humans, the Bible, and metaphysical ways, transcends and encompasses gender.
In Deuteronomy 32:18, Moses writes of God who fathered the people and gave birth to them. In Isaiah 63, we see the prophet writing of God’s motherly womb-like love and in the next breath describes God as our Father. Later in chapter 66, Isaiah writes of God saying to God’s people that “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.”
If we leave the feminine nature of God out and only embrace the masculine nature, then we are missing aspects OF God’s nature.
Perhaps God had it right by telling Moses at the burning bush that “I AM” is who God is. There is no language box we can put God in when God describes God-self as “I AM.”
Why does this matter for any of us? I think there are many people who have a difficult time connecting with and praying to Father God because of their experiences with their own fathers. And while I believe our Father in Heaven wants to redeem and transform our understandings of what a Father is meant to be, we don’t have to wait until that moment to connect with God. God as Mother can open up our hearts to the never- ending, all encompassing, nurturing and strong love of God. A mother never stops interceding for her children, never gives up on them. In the book of Romans, we read of God’s Spirit (gender neutral) interceding on the behalf of humans, uttering wordless groans of love and hope over those who cannot weave together words because of their situation. God’s Spirit prays unceasingly for you. I know that when life’s crushing weight of pain and heart-ache seems to push my head underwater, when I can’t muster words of prayer for myself or others, when I can’t even say “help,” my mother has never stopped praying.
“As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.”
May you be comforted by God as a mother comforts her child by knowing that God is praying unceasingly for you. And may you begin to take God out of any language box and begin to discover the God who goes beyond our thoughts and language this Mother’s Day.
Bethany Cseh is pastor at Arcata United Methodist Church