What Happens When God Can be Mother Too?

Category Archives:Lady God

We Love to Call Him Lord–But Why?

Lord has always been one of my favorite names for God. But as a part of The Mother God Experiment, I have been reading translations that avoid the title, Lord, leading me to think more objectively about it. Is Lord a helpful and truly Biblical way to speak of God in the 21st century?

No More Lords and Ladies

It’s not just that Lord means something that no longer applies to our common culture among most English speakers. We don’t have a feudal system, and lords aren’t a part of our economic life. (The term is likely used more often by Brits, but still.)

It’s that Lord focuses narrowly on power, authority and rulership. And white power at that. A lord is always going to be caucasian (and upper class) in our image-banks.

Synonyms for lord from Oxforddictionaries.com include: magnate, tycoon, mogul, captain, baron, king, industrialist, proprietor, big shot, and (head) honcho. Those word make me think of Donald Trump. Is God simply someone extremely powerful and privileged, to be feared and obeyed? And do power-titles lead us to a better relationship with God or do we stand back a bit when we hear them?

The word is also intrinsically male, focusing on male power in particular. How do I know this about Lord describing a male? When I whip out the counterpart term Lady as a term for God, every one drops their powdered wig.

But Ladies had power, too, in the Middle Ages. (See my Lady God post here). The Divine Feminine Version of the New Testament refers to God as The Lady at times. And it’s a real mind-blower, but in a healthy way. It has helped me finally get a realistic hold on how antiquated and male-centered Lord is. We need some re-education.

Why Do We Call God the Lord?

We tend to believe that the title Lord leaped from the pages of the Bible. But the original languages reveal some important truths about God that translators have missed. The Old Testament writers refer to God as Yahweh 6087 times! It’s the predominant way of speaking of God.

Yahweh provides the foundation of our pre-Jesus understanding of God, having its roots in God’s own revelation of Herself to Moses in Exodus 3:14. Many have opinions on the translation, but ultimately the title Yahweh relates to primordial being: “I am who I am” and/or “I will be who I will be.”

The name Yahweh is not male-authority based. It is God-based.

Similarly, Elohim is the plural of El (god) and is most basically translated “God” or “gods.” Elohim appears 2340 times.

Finally, Adonai is used for God only 428 times. This term does mean “lord.” But throughout the Old Testament, English-speaking translators use “Lord” for Yahweh (though often in all caps: LORD, as my friend JoMae reminded me), and not only for Adonai. So the overwhelming feeling an English speaker has is that God’s primary, most revelatory name is Lord. But God has actually shown Herself through a name referring to foundational Being and Presence and not to male-only authority.

But What About Jesus?

Kyrios is Greek for “mister” and referred to the head of the household in Classical Athens. It appears 740 times in the New Testament. It was a natural Greek substitute for Adonai, which Jewish people have used to avoid speaking out loud the holy name of Yahweh.

Jesus preferred Human One (traditionally translated Son of Man) to speak of Himself. Indeed, he came as a servant to humanity (Luke 22:7) and called His followers His friends (John 15:15). He uses Kyrios sparingly–once to explain that “The Human One is Lord of the Sabbath” (Matt. 12:8; Luke 6:5), and another time to speak about the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 7:21). He actually challenges those who call Him Kyrie (the vocative tense of Kyrios), but who do not do what He says (Luke 6:46), and implicitly warns that both the goats and the sheep call Him “Lord” but that their actions differentiate them (Matt. 25:31-46). And Jesus shockingly identified with Yahweh when He said, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58).

Nonetheless as Christians, when we say “Jesus is Lord” we are making an important statement of faith that Jesus is more than human. Jesus as Kyrios (the head, the leader, the master) was fundamental for the early Christians developing their theology, despite the fact that Jesus rarely called Himself this.

But there are other ways to say the same thing that do not use “Lord.” The introduction of The Inclusive Bible agrees:

The title ‘Lord,’ especially when it refers to Jesus, is hard to replace because it is confessional–that is, to call Jesus Lord is to both recognize in him a divinity and to make a commitment to him. To confess that Jesus is Lord is to confess, for example, Caesar is not Lord. To avoid sexist and classist connotations, we use substitutes for Lord that are meaningful in our own confession of Jesus, such as Sovereign, Savior and Jesus Reigns.

Even with the centrality of declaring Jesus as God, we do not have to use the English word Lord. Jesus is no longer a human male walking the earth, though His humanity mattered to Jesus. (His maleness did not seem important, however).

Jesus is Spirit. We may confess Christ’s divinity, and our commitment to do what Jesus says, without needing to emphasize gender.

El Shaddai

El Shaddai is one of seven titles for God that modern Jews continue to revere by never saying the names out loud. It refers to God only seven times in the Old Testament (but 48 times as Shaddai alone).

El means “God” but “Shaddai” is up for debate. English translators again always choose a power-title, God Almighty. However, the Hebrew root “shad” means breast, with the ending “ai” indicating two breasts.

Often when I see an article on feminine language for God, the writer will say that it’s “rare” or “unusual” for God to be referred to in feminine terms. But that’s not true, when one takes time to really notice every verse (go to my page for the evidence). An explicitly feminine title for God therefore seems reasonable.

One could take a risk and call God “The Two-Breasted One” sometimes. But as a more comfortable alternative, using the title Mother for God is one way to refer to God in English that avoids masculine power-centered words but has Biblical roots.

Moving Beyond Lord to Servant

The ineffable God is not attached to our antiquated words for Her. She sent Jesus to reveal a new definition of power, one that is about servanthood and love rather than “lord[ing] it over” others (Mt. 20:25).

It will take some courage, but we can leave “Lord” behind as our primary way of thinking about God. And we will have a clearer vision of God if we do.

 

 

 

 

 

Mother God’s Delight

Little children, tiny ones, usually know their parents delight in them. But as they get older, and harder to understand, and not as cute, our children are not always sure we love them as much.

That’s how my 9-year-old, Marshall, feels. And that’s how I feel: not so sure we’re cute to Mother God anymore.

Lady Julian of Norwich said it’s the cross that shows God’s love, the drops of blood on Jesus’ forehead. These make me feel sad and guilty and grateful—but delighted in?

Yet Mother God delights in Marshall and Sam, and in me and you. Where are the Psalms revealing Her great love? Thank goodness for the concordance. There’s Psalm 18:19, from the TNIV (revised by me):

She brought me out into a spacious place;

She rescued me because she delighted in me.

The Wisdom figure of Proverbs was “filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in Her presence, rejoicing in Her whole world and delighting in humankind” (Proverbs 8:30, 31, TNIV, revised by me). It’s a beautiful thought, the delight of Jesus and Lady God in Her creation.

May I accept that delight and let it overflow into how I see my kids and the world, this day.



Just a Woman

51zm3Fd25nL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_“Listen to the Voice of God!…How powerful and majestic is her voice!” 

Psalm 29, Swallow’s Nest, p. 47.

I am not so good at listening to women, giving them authority. Nor do I always expect to be heard as a woman, especially by men.

I am reading Micha Boyett’s Found and enjoying it immensely. I relate to Micha’s “failed-to-be-a-missionary—now-a-mother” angst and I love her writing.

Early on in the book, though, I caught myself dismissing her voice about the Benedictine tradition she explores. I’m actually very attracted to the idea of ordering life according to prayer and work, service and worship. But because Micha is a woman, and maybe even more so because she is a young mom, I could not let her teach me very well.

Thankfully, the Lady God was moving in my heart and telling me, “Listen. Listen.” And so I did, with new ears. I am almost at the end of Micha’s book and she has gained for me the authority she deserves.

So often I treat God the same way. I don’t listen to her, as though she were “just a woman.” As though her voice were optional in my life, as though she was operating on some fake authority.  Especially since she speaks so softly.

Coincidentally, a lot like me.

 

Lady God

This may rock your world more than you wanted, so soon. But the Divine Feminine Version of the New Testament  (DVF) had another gift for me only half way through Matthew chapter 1: God as Lady.

I have always wondered how to make the term Lord egalitarian. It is antiquated, primarily masculine and dominance-focused. It never occurred to me that “Lady” was an equal counterpart to Lord, or could be. We use Lord anachronistically for God. So, why not Lady? We just have to get used to what it meant back in the ancient-day. A Lady had authority due to her husband’s land ownership in the Middle Ages. When her husband was gone on his adventures, her word was law at the manor. 

In the DFV, in Matthew 1:20, an “angel of the Lady” appears to Joseph in a dream. This seems appropriate here, because the angel is saying, “Don’t be afraid to marry Mary,” the most esteemed woman and mother in history.

I have some getting-over to do though. Just as Lord is never used as a title for someone in our culture, lady has a very different meaning now than in the Middle Ages. Yesterday, I noticed a flyer for our local French Prairie Gardens, advertising a “Ladies Only” brunch. When I think of “Ladies,” which is becoming a retro-popular word again for women, I think of women in flowery polyester dresses with bejeweled clip-on earrings and powder-puffed necks. I think of the current (or 1950s) definition which emphases how different we are from the men. So set apart that we don’t even have a counterpart term for men. “Gentlemen” is rarely, if ever, used.

So maybe because of that set-apart implication it can work for God, too. I’m going to try it. Surely God is always a lady, good and kind and faithful. 

The Strength of Lady

But what about me—am I a lady? I’ve never related to the word, but I’m trying on new meanings for it. I recently read Maya Angelou’s last memoir, Mom and Me and Mom. When her mom and dad divorced, they sent 3 year old Maya and her 5 year old brother alone on a train to live with the paternal grandmother in Arkansas. Maya’s mother took them back 10 long years later.

So at 13, Maya found herself unwilling to use the word Mother. Maya chose Lady instead. Instead of complaining, her mother humbly chose it for herself, too, eventually becoming Lady Baxter. Leaving behind the mistakes of Maya’s early years, Lady Baxter lived up to the title in its strength. She powerfully supported the teenage and adult Maya, who became a successful dancer, playwright, poet and activist.

So I can think of Lady God like I do Lady Baxter, who once told Maya, “You are the greatest person I have ever met.”

This is something we all need to hear from Lady God who is also our best notion of Mother, the One who “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres” (I Cor. 13:7) because we’re Her children.

 

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