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The Motherheart of God: God as a She?

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Exploring the Motherheart of God

In Sunday school they taught us about God our Father and—if we were lucky—perhaps about Jesus our Brother.

In youth group we learned about Jesus our Best Friend and in college and careers group we were taught about Jesus our Husband (or perhaps Lover, if you were a dude and ‘Husband’ felt awkward).

But no one ever taught me about God our Mother. I had to learn that one on my own, and it wasn’t until I became a mother myself that I really started to learn that God is not just fathering me, he’s mothering me, too.

In Genesis the creation story describes humankind as being created in God’s image, male and female. Both are made from him, both display aspects of his very nature, both are given to reflect a more complete picture of who he is.

So why then are we so quick to sound the heresy alarm when a person attributes anything “feminine” to God?

I remember as a child being told about those ‘weirdoes’ who believed God was a female. They are into New Age and what they believe isn’t Truth (capital ‘T’), I was warned in various forms from various sources.

And maybe “those people” were weirdoes — I don’t know. But as an adult I’ve begun to realize how much we’ve idolized the masculine nature of God and forgotten the feminine even though God is often described in his more “feminine” nature in scripture. 

God as a ‘he,’ God as a ‘she’

I can’t even decide if I should write about his “feminine” nature in quotes or not. Is this feminine nature literal or figurative? Because seriously, categorizing the male and female attributes of God feels tricky to me.

Who are we to decide that his power and strength and protection and provision reflect his masculine side? And who are we to deem his sensitivity, wisdom, comfort, tenderness, and nurturing ways are a reflection his feminine side? (Even if these feel normal or right to me.) If God is both male and female (or neither male nor female) then why must we draw lines in the sand for what belongs where? (And of course even these delineations are contingent on our human and cultural constructs of gender norms, which I have absolutely no desire to debate.)

Lord have mercy, it feels like a land mine.

And yet.

And YET. I believe there is something significant about recognizing and affirming the maternal, feminine side of God.

It’s all a little uncomfortable

Let’s be honest. For most of us, making God a “he” is way easier to wrap our brains around. Mostly, I’m okay with that. There are many reasons we’ve deemed God a “he” throughout the ages. Language demands a gender assignment (it would feel so off to call God an “it” — am I right?), our culture has traditionally deemed males to be the more superior or authoritative gender, and of course Jesus (a male) relates to God as his Father (a he). All of those reasons are good enough for me. (Well, two thirds of them anyway. That middle one, not so much.)

And truth be told, thinking of God in terms of the feminine can make me slightly uncomfortable. (You too?) I’m not sure if this is because of the deeply-rooted stigma in my mind about “New Age weirdoes” or because I’m so used to reading he/his/him pronouns for God all throughout the bible. Maybe it’s because so many of the Old Testament stories enforce the gender stereotypes of God as a strong ruler/warrior/provider/leader/protector (all traditionally male roles). Or maybe it’s because I generally just like to think of him as my perfect dad, Papa God. In any case, a ‘masculine’ God is what I’m used to (and therefore is so much easier for me to imagine), and yet I’ve realized that I need a Mother God, too.

Some seasons expose this need and desire more than others.

Summer of Suffering

This summer has been called a “summer of suffering” by many. Even as I was still reeling in the fresh wake of my second miscarriage, it felt like the world took a swift turn, plunging into a tsunami of one heartbreaking news story after another.

All of a sudden planes were plummeting from the sky, children and innocents were being beheaded, racial tension was overflowing on once-forgotten streets and lighting our news feeds on fire, war and violence was escalating in Gaza and the Ukraine, the Ebola epidemic began wreaking havoc on the continent of Africa, highlighting economic injustice and the bondage of systemic poverty as we learned of the dying and the dead.

Closer to home, longtime friends were diagnosed with aggressive cancer or their existing conditions worsened. Others were handed frightening diagnoses for their unborn babies. Still more lost children to miscarriage or brothers to addiction or close friends to suicide. I felt like the earth was crumbling around us and I know I’ve not been alone in my sadness, confusion, and lament during these uncertain times.

Longing for a Mother God

This summer as the suffering of the world gave way to ripped open hearts, it’s felt like we just might bleed right through our skin and taint everything we set our eyes on if we’re not careful.

And as the world groans under the weight of oppression and we hold our collective breath waiting for Jesus our Rescuer to come, there is no one I want more in the meantime than my Mama God to draw me close by her Spirit and speak words of comfort into my battle-weary soul. My need for her is fierce – our strong yet tender, wise and compassionate, nurturing, sensitive, beautiful Mother God.

I’m looking for her to—as Jesus said—gather her brood and shelter us in her wings (Luke 13:34) where it’s warm, safe, and secure. I’m certain it’s there under her wings where peace reigns. (And Lord knows we all need some peace right about now.)

God and the language of mothering

My own experiences relating to the children I so ferociously love has given me a richer understanding of the way God mothers—parents—me. As I’ve learned to mother them I’ve begun to recognize the many ways God is simultaneously mothering me.

And maybe it’s not of supreme importance to make a distinction between the ‘fatherheart’ and the ‘motherheart’ of God, because both are encompassed in the whole heart of God, not one side heavier or more imperative than the other. But for me personally, it helps enrich my human understanding when I remember that God is so much more than just a father; he’s my mother, too. The language of mothering helps me to embrace the sort of tender, gracious God that wants to gather me close and hide me under her wings.

I wonder if the language of mothering might help others to realize God more fully, too?

The series: Exploring the Motherheart of God

Because I believe many hearts are crying out to know and experience God more deeply in the aftermath of this “summer of suffering,” I’ve asked some of my favorite writers to explore their perspective of the motherheart of God in a series I’m simply calling Exploring the Motherheart of God. I believe the words of these godly women will bring hope, comfort, and inspiration to souls in need of a revelation of God’s beautiful and dynamic motherheart.

This series is not meant to be a theological discussion on the male or female attributes of God (or humans, for that matter). What it’s meant to be is an encouragement and an invitation for us all to curl up into the bosom of God’s chest and sit there for a while — just where we belong — and let ourselves be cradled, sung over, nurtured, and cared for in a fresh and holy way.

Question: Have you ever thought of God as Mother before? Why or why not?

Adriel x

 

Please note: I realize I’ve used both male and female pronouns in reference to God in this post, without employing much consistency. I’ve sometimes even done it in the same paragraph… or worse, the same sentence. Entirely awkward, I know. But it is what it is. I’m still grappling with how to even write about this stuff in a way that both makes sense to me and will still (hopefully) connect with you, dear readers. Thanks for your grace as I explore.

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15 Comments

  • Reply sarah beth 15 September 2014 at 9:56 am

    I’m really looking forward to this series! I appreciate so much your sensitivity and grace as you write.
    sarah beth recently posted..face to dustMy Profile

  • Reply Laura 15 September 2014 at 2:46 pm

    I love this so much! THANK YOU for this!! I will write a comment with my more detailed thoughts when I have time later.

  • Reply Rachel 17 September 2014 at 6:09 am

    oh I’m very interested to read this series! I think it would be very interesting to know how many times God is referred to in the feminine as opposed to the masculine in the Bible. Maybe sometime, I’ll sit down and study it properly. I know you don’t mean this series to become a theological debate but I think its going to be a very touch subject for some people.

  • Reply Hannah 17 September 2014 at 12:11 pm

    Have you ever read Jonalyn Grace Fincher’s Ruby Slippers: How The Soul of A Woman Brings Her Home? She discusses this very thing, and at the time I have to say I didn’t even finish reading the book, it freaked me out just a little. I think mostly because it’s just so incredibly foreign to me, to everything I’ve ever been taught.
    Hannah recently posted..Your Ice is Not Better Than Mine (or: “Comparison is the Thief of All Joy”My Profile

    • Reply Adriel 11 November 2014 at 2:43 pm

      No, I haven’t heard of that one Hannah. Sounds interesting…..

      And yes, it’s hard to have our theology messed with. I guess my take is that if being challenged in our beliefs can bring us closer to God and spur us to look in our bibles ourselves… then it’s a good thing. :) In all things, humility. :)
      Adriel recently posted..Moving into a little camper so we can live a little biggerMy Profile

  • Reply The Motherheart of God: Fierce, Strong, Wild 21 September 2014 at 11:33 am

    […] Exploring the Motherheart of God — “In Sunday school they taught us about God our Father and—if we were lucky—perhaps about Jesus our Brother. In youth group we learned about Jesus our Best Friend and in college and careers group we were taught about Jesus our Husband (or perhaps Lover, if you were a dude and ‘Husband’ felt awkward). But no one ever taught me about God our Mother. I had to learn that one on my own, and it wasn’t until I became a mother myself that I really started to learn that God is not just fathering me, he’s mothering me, too. . . The language of mothering helps me to embrace the sort of tender, gracious God that wants to gather me close and hide me under her wings.” continue reading>>> […]

  • Reply The Motherheart of God: A New Picture 23 September 2014 at 10:31 pm

    […] Exploring the Motherheart of God by Adriel Booker — “In Sunday school they taught us about God our Father and—if we were lucky—perhaps about Jesus our Brother. In youth group we learned about Jesus our Best Friend and in college and careers group we were taught about Jesus our Husband (or perhaps Lover, if you were a dude and ‘Husband’ felt awkward). But no one ever taught me about God our Mother. I had to learn that one on my own. . .” continue reading>>> […]

  • Reply Donna C 24 September 2014 at 8:30 pm

    You have summed up my journey! I had a sudden awareness of the femininity of the Holy Spirit about a year ago, which shocked and delighted me… and when I cautiously mentioned it to some Catholic friends of mine, they shocked me further by being not the slightest bit surprised by my momentous revelation, except for the fact that it had taken me so long to become aware of it. Lol… kinda took the wind out of my sails, slightly!
    I am a lot more comfortable than I have ever been with thinking of God as both maternal and paternal, but I still have a ways to go, I think.

    • Reply Adriel 11 November 2014 at 2:45 pm

      Wow, love that. That’s a great example of why we SO need each other in the Body of Christ if we’re willing to suspend preconceived ideas and prejudice… even across denominational boundaries. Not an easy task, but a fruitful one. In all things – humility ushers in grace. Thank God for that.
      Adriel recently posted..Dear Church, can we make room in our hearts for it all?My Profile

  • Reply The Motherheart of God: God is a Midwife 27 September 2014 at 2:15 pm

    […] Exploring the Motherheart of God by Adriel Booker — “In Sunday school they taught us about God our Father and—if we were lucky—perhaps about Jesus our Brother. In youth group we learned about Jesus our Best Friend and in college and careers group we were taught about Jesus our Husband (or perhaps Lover, if you were a dude and ‘Husband’ felt awkward). But no one ever taught me about God our Mother. I had to learn that one on my own. . .” continue reading>>> […]

  • Reply Melissa 15 October 2014 at 7:21 am

    Love it Adriel.

    The fullness of God can be more fully understood in the fullness of his creation. Because we are made in his image our female attributes are designed by him because it’s who he is!.. I’m not sure if that just made sense but it’s certainly worth pursuing.
    I… not just as a person…. but as a WOMAN…. am created in the image of God! It just openess up so much more freedom and understanding and confidence,,, in who God is and who I am.

    Thanks for opening up such an interesting subject.
    Melissa recently posted..Can eating dates help labour and birth?My Profile

  • Reply The Motherheart of God: Unconditional Love 12 January 2015 at 3:48 pm

    […] God As A She? by Adriel Booker — “In Sunday school they taught us about God our Father and—if we were lucky—perhaps about Jesus our Brother. In youth group we learned about Jesus our Best Friend and in college and careers group we were taught about Jesus our Husband (or perhaps Lover, if you were the sort of dude that felt awkward with ‘Husband’). But no one ever taught me about God our Mother. I had to learn that one on my own. . .” continue reading>>> […]

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