I’ve been a Christian feminist since college, but it was only about ten years ago that I started seriously thinking about my image of God. I had a spiritual director who noticed that I wasn’t so good at trusting God. My God image was missing something. Did I need to explore the metaphor of “mother” for God? Would this give me something I couldn’t tap from the “father” metaphor?
I was a long way away from taking her advice, but I knew well that language matters when it comes to women being valued and empowered. I remember during my time at Regent College, New Testament scholar Gordon Fee talked about his wife’s faith journey. In the 1950s, she felt alienated by a Bible that only seemed to speak to men. All the “brothers” and “sons” left no room for a self-identified woman in the “kingdom” of God. That began a process for Gordon that resulted in his work on the TNIV–an egalitarian translation of the Bible.
I had experienced the same thing as Maudine in the 1990s. I received my first egalitarian translation of the Bible at Urbana ‘93 (a missions conference) and used it until the cover fell off last year. My husband found me another one just like it on the Internet.
Language has made all the difference for my feeling of inclusion in the family of God. So what would it mean for me and all Christian women if God could be Mother sometimes, too? If God could even be She?
The Mother God Experiment
One day last spring, my toddler handed me Paul Smith’s book, Is It Okay to Call God Mother? I hadn’t thought about it for years. I had been thinking about my unfinished dissertation, however. My hypothesis was that praying to God as Mother would raise the self-esteem of Christian women who did it. How could I somehow finish what I started? With Smith’s book now in my hand, an idea came to life in my mind, a way to finally begin to embrace God as Mother in my personal prayer life.
I would put down my Bible for a few months and cling to devotional literature that used feminine pronouns and metaphors for God. And I would journal about my own experiences as a mother and a woman. I would see what would happen to the God image in my mind: could I make the change from Man Upstairs to Mother God? And what difference would it make? Would I become less Christian?
Honestly, that last question is in there for some of you. I know we have been so cautioned about the Mother metaphor for God that there is a false guilt for even going there in our minds. Maybe you even feel wrong for reading this far on my blog. I’ve been there, friend.
But this past year God has shown me a new side of Herself that I needed to see. A God who is just as much like me as She is like my believing brothers–because we are all made in God’s image.