Several years ago, I stumbled on a book called Is It Okay to Call God Mother? Considering the Feminine Face of God, by a Baptist minister, Paul Smith. He concluded that Sundays are the most sexist day of the week. He noticed all the hymns and Scriptures that address only men and refer to a seemingly male God. And he began to research and write his amazing book.
I had always resisted using Mother as a term for God, despite my firm belief that Jesus was a feminist. I thought that if Jesus prayed to Father, I should, too. Smith gave me good arguments for using the metaphor of mother for God in the 21st century.
For example, in first century Palestine, mothers were legally the property of their husbands, always second in place. Jesus prayed to Father in part because fathers were first in the hierarchy in Jewish society. It would have been culturally out-of-place to do anything else. Jesus’ point, though, was to startle: he used the term Abba to change the game about prayer. It’s not about religion, it’s about relationship. Mother fits perfectly with that aim in North America today. For example, have you ever heard the term “absent mother”? These days, Mother describes God better than Father, though fathers can also reflect God’s presence and love.
I was also amazed to discover in Smith’s book that the Biblical writers and early church leave no record of actually praying to Father (though they did refer to God the Father). They preferred Lord, and God, to directly address divinity in prayer.
Yet, feminine names and metaphors abound for God in the Bible, especially the Old Testament (e.g. Deut. 32:18; Jer. 31:20; Is. 42:13,14; Is. 46:3, 4; Is. 66:12-14; Job 38:8, 9, 28-29). Mother is a much more common metaphor than our culturally favored ones. For example, Lily of the Valley appears only one time, in the Song of Solomon, and is now applied to Jesus (Song of Solomon 2:1) though it was never intended to. Yet Jesus compared himself to a mother hen, longing to gather her chicks under-wing (Luke 13:34). We tidily ignore that.
But Jesus is no chicken, right? No one metaphor or simile can say it all; we need many to describe the Being Beyond Language.
So, there is no risk of offending God. Just more to learn about Her and ourselves.
Are you ready? Start here.