I started writing this post nearly two years ago. But then my daughter was born. I came back to it shortly thereafter but could not figure out where I was going with it and then abandoned it altogether. It was only recently, last week actually when I read Mimi Haddad’s post, Worship a Male God, that I realized that I had to come back to this. Hopefully with a much clearer thought process now that the Percocet is completely out of my system!
I have noticed over the last five or so a trend in many theological circles to move toward an identification of God other than father, or for that matter, masculine. I remember the first time I heard someone refer to God as ‘Our Mother and Our Father.” I found it odd and honestly, heretical because up until then I had only thought of God in masculine terms. I mean, the Lord’s prayer starts out ‘Our Father’ and the Bible teaches us to put our trust in this father times without number. I wondered what was going on! Yet I began to see and understand why there was a move in this direction. For many people, men and women alike, the term father carries a lot of negative baggage that they do not necessarily want to associate with. As a result, many people who struggle with this term are reluctant to come to faith in God, someone who personifies everything that they despise as a result of abuse that they have endured, oppression, exploitation and so many other forms of injustice.
And I get that. As a woman, who is a person of color living in a society that is full of injustice, I understand the desire for people to want to embrace this shift. I mean, if the masculine identity of God poses a barrier for people, remove the barrier and either refer to God as a woman, or refer to God as a deity who represents both. Problem solved, right?
Not necessarily. You see, I think we tread a fine line when we start relating to God out of our own presuppositions and biases. We, as a people, reach an unfortunate point when we start to view God in light of our experiences instead of seeing God higher and above our experiences. In my own life, I wrestled with this for a long time. Growing up, I felt like I had to always prove that I was worthy – in my family, in my school, in society at large in order to be rewarded. And if I messed up, I often feared that whatever I earned through all of my hard work would be taken away. Unfortunately, in many instances it was: love, affection, acceptance – the whole nine yards. It led me to constantly seek the approval of others; without that approval, I was a mess.
As I began to grow in my relationship with God, I began to project these very experiences and tendencies on to him. I felt like I had to be on my p’s and q’s in order to win his affection, his love, and I feared what would happen if I ever screwed up. Time and a whole lot of grace has shown me that this is not who God is at all. In spite of my experiences, God is the loving, ever understanding and merciful parent, who delights in me regardless of what I do. God was not waiting for the first moment that I screwed up to punish me or take away any blessings; no instead, God was waiting for me to trust in him the very way that a daughter trusts in her mother and a son trusts in his father.
This is not to say that referring to God in any other way besides masculine is wrong. In all actuality, the Bible tells us that God is Spirit, (John 4) and so that means that God is neither male nor female. In our humanness and inability to understand something so infinite, we ascribe to God these human characteristics. There is nothing wrong with that – we just must realize that he is more than that!
And God is also more than our experiences! This is why we cannot use those experiences to determine how we will relate to God nor can we use those experiences to determine who God is. In fact, we must allow God to redeem these experiences to bring about his glory and his goodness in our lives.
You can read more about my own experience in Dancing on Hot Coals.