Most people, not all, first experienced unconditional love not through the image of a man, but through the image of their mother. She therefore became the basis for many people’s real and operative God. I am convinced many people sour on religion because the God they presented with is actually less loving than their mother or father was.
For much of the human race, the mother has been the one who parts the veil for us, and opens us up to any inner life of emotions or soul. She gives us that experience of grounding, intimacy, tenderness, and safety that most of us hope for from God. However, many people also operate from a toxic and negative image of God. For those people, little that is wonderful is going to happen as long as that is true. Early growth in spirituality is often about healing that inner image, whether male-based or female-based.
Most of us know that God is beyond gender. When we look at the book of Genesis, we see that the first thing God is looking for is quite simply “images” by which to communicate who-God-is (Genesis 1:26-27). God is not looking for servants, for slaves, or for people who are going to pass loyalty tests. God is just looking for images-images and likeness of the Inner Mystery. Whoever God is, is profoundly and essentially what it means to be both male and female in perfect balance. We have to find and to trust images that present both a healthy feminine face for God and a healthy masculine face for God. Both are true and both are necessary for a vital and loving relationship with God. Up to now, we have largely relied upon the presented masculine images of God (which closed man people down) while, in fact, our inner life is much more drawn to a loving feminine energy. That is much of our religious problem today, and I do not believe that is an exaggeration.
-Richard Rohr, God and Gender