Lent: The Divine Feminine, Day 33
Words and images point us to God; they help us understand the divine, but they are not God.
For example, gender.
In the ancient word, it was observed that a woman became pregnant only when she’d been with a man. It was assumed, then, based on primitive, limited understandings of biology, that the man’s contribution must be the essence of the life force and the woman’s the place where that life force was carried and held and nurtured, God, it was believed, was the life force of the world, so God must be like a father.
Or take early agricultural settings, where women used hoes to break up the ground for planting. Women in those cultures were responsible for putting food on the table, and so the gods in those cultures were generally understood to be female. But then the plow was invented, which was pulled by an animal. When women used this new invention, it required significantly more physical effort, and as a result miscarriage rates increased. So men took over working the plow, which led to the gods being perceived as male.
These forms and expressions come and go over time because our conceptions of God and the images we use to picture and explain those conceptions are deeply shaped by the patterns, technologies, and customs of the world we live in.
And so there are masculine images of God-Jesus prayed to his “Father in heaven”-
And there are feminine images of God-
the prophet Isaiah quotes God saying,
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!”
When God is described as
those writers are taking something they’ve seen, something they’ve experienced, and they’re essentially saying, “God is like THAT.”
It’s an attempt to put that which is beyond language into a from or form we can grasp.
An image of God doesn’t contain God,
in the same way a word about God or a doctrine or a dogma about God isn’t God; it only points to God.
(On a side note, in the Genesis poem that begins the Bible, it’s written that we are created male and female, “in the image of God.” This is important to remember when you encounter churches and religious communities that are run by men and men only, where men do the speaking and leading and decision making. When the female voice is repressed and stifled, the entire community can easily find themselves cut off from the sacred feminine, depriving themselves of the full image of God. Interesting to note that in the Catholic Church, with its all-male leadership, Mother Mary plays such a prominent role. Another example of how the sacred feminine can’t be denied, she will express herself somehow. She moves, after all, in mysterious ways. (Cue U2 song.)
-Rob Bell, What We Talk About When We Talk About God