To Press

While I’m (laptopless) in Florida, I leave you with a couple of things I’ve recently published.

Ministry in the age of online networking (article for my Annual Conference’s website)

“The Birthing of a Mother-God” (essay for “Mama Says” a local publication for mothers, in their edition on mathoerhood and spirituality, re-work of an earlier blog post or two)

Intellectually, academically, and theologically, I will insist to you that God has no gender, that 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 and images from my god-talk. Still, it is hard to ignore the ingrained images of society and my Roman Catholic upbringing. And private prayer is a different story. In my private prayer life—feminism aside, intellectualism aside, thealogy (that’s the feminine of theology, no kidding) aside—in my private prayer life, God was Father, brother, or lover for the longest time. 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 never got around to challenging. So, for over two decades, my God was a male God.

Until I got pregnant. Motherhood changes everything.

The more I encountered the fear and excitement of creating, the more I found myself praying 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 felt the physical pain of pregnancy and anticipated the physical pain of labor, the more I prayed 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 prayed about what I was experiencing—all that I was experiencing physically and mentally and spiritually—the more I wanted a Mother. When my birthing did not go at all according to my plan, but was instead an emergency c-section under general anesthesia, I mourned the loss of the birthing experience with a Mother who must know what it is like to have the act of creation be so difficult and unpredictable.

Throughout my pregnancy and my first few weeks as a mother, I found myself crying out to Mama, and not meaning the human mother I have known and loved so long (although I desperately wanted her by my side as well!), but the Divine Mother, who created us pained, nervous, creating, jubilant mothers, all in Her image.

Later, in the quiet moments nursing my daughter, I marveled at God’s love that, like mine, must be so vast it sometimes hurts, so uplifting I could lose myself in it. When I cried tears of joy or frustration at my daughter’s antics, I imagined Our Mother shaking her metaphorical head with amusement or sadness as we make the same, foolish, childish, human choices over and over. When my daughter runs into my arms, seeking comfort and caress seconds after screaming “I no like you; leave me alone!” (she’s almost four, can you tell?), I know for certain that God’s heart breaks and mends a million times when one of Her children runs to Her. Even now, in the pain and frustration of more than a year of failed attempts to conceive a second child, I believe I can hear God sighing, whispering that parenthood is never easy, never without struggle and sacrifice and frustration and tears, never to be taken for granted. She should know.

In short, as I made and make this transition, as I continue to become a mother, God for me becomes one too.

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6 Responses

  1. Jesus called Him Father, I will to.

  2. @dszalla,

    Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope it was clear from my essay that I’m encouraging people to call and image God however is helpful for them. I believe God meets us where we are, and if for you that is a loving and strong Father, that’s wonderful.

    Shalom and thanks again for stopping by!
    Becca

  3. Hi Becca,

    The metaphors we use about God and what it means to stand in God’s presence become ideology if not grounded in our personal experience. Interestingly, Marjorie Suchocki’s book, In God’s Presence, notes that for many, speaking of God as our Father was a radical statement more about the status of our neighbor than about God – didn’t Paul say something about all being heirs?

    The image of a motherly God came alive for me mid 80s – am I that old? We were at a memorial service for a woman who had sadly taken her own life. Burned into my memory was the image of our co-pastor sitting, holding the young woman’s grieving partner in her arms through the entire service. Mother God….

  4. Hi
    This is very nice, I agree God is who ever you need him/her to be to help us through a tough time,as he is ALWAYS with us if we let him be, as I have done since last April.
    Keep up the great work Pastor Becca.
    May God bless you and Ben with another child if it is his wish, and yours at this time.

    MAY GOD BLESS

  5. @ Matt,
    Thanks for your comments, and the powerful image of the pastor at the memorial service. It’s true that so many people can reveal the presence of God in our lives. And you gotta love Suchocki. I love the idea that, as with so many things, we are really claiming something radical about us, rather than stating anything about God’s infinite nature.

    @David,
    Thank you for reading and for your comments. I am always touched by your testimony to God’s work in your life, and your reminder that God is deeper and stronger and truer than anything else. It is a joy and an honor to be in ministry with you.
    And thank you for your prayers, for this and for all else where you and the rest of the congregation hold me in prayer. It is said that the prayers of righteous people avail much, so we’ll see what God has in store in God’s time… (of course it’s also a saying that you should be careful what you wish for and seriously, have you met my daughter? I want to do that again?!).

    Blessings,
    Becca

  6. Hi Becca,

    Matt is my son – but I actually left the comment. Love technology! He was born in the mid 80s, but not part of the pastoral team at Wheadon UMC.

    Funny, I was helping him redesign his website and was logged in to both our shared blog and his – didn’t notice it posted the message from his user name – anyway, I do hope that he might understand what is being talked about!

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