God and Gender

Intellectually, academically, theologically, I will insist to you that God has no gender. The Ultimate, the Divine, transcends such finite categories of personhood. In my writing, speaking, preaching, and public prayer, I strive to remove all gendered pronouns and indeed gendered descriptions/images from my god-talk. Still, it is hard to ignore the ingrained images of society and early catholic church training. And private prayer is a different story. Lex orandi, lex credendi, as they say; the law of praying is the law of believing. In my private prayer life–feminism aside, intellectualism aside, thealogy (that’s the fem. of theology, no kidding) aside–in my private prayer life, God has been male. Father, brother, or lover (usually father, “Abba”), but always male. Maybe it’s a desire to find a strong centering male figure as someone raised largely by a single mother. More likely, it’s the habit of the Lord’s Prayer and years of cultural assumptions that I have been too weak or lazy to challenge. So, for over two decades, God has been for me a male God.

Until very recently. Pregnancy changes everything.

The more I feel the physical pain of pregnancy and anticipate the physical pain of labor, the more I find myself praying to a God who would know such pain. You can keep the suffering Christ; I don’t need someone who’s experienced the agony of crucifixion, but One who has endured the agony of transition. The more I encounter the fear and excitement of creating, the more I pray to a Creator who creates as I do–one who does not mold creatures from clay, but births them from the mystical depths of Herself. The more I pray about what I’m doing–all that I’m doing physically and mentally and spiritually–the more I want a Mother. I find myself crying out to Mama, and not meaning the human mother I have known and loved so long (although I desperately want her by my side as well), but the Divine Mother, who created us pained, nervous, creating, jubilant mothers, all in Her image.

And so, as I make this transition, as I face this shift in my identity, as I become a mother, God becomes one too.


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