Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Regaining courage...

"No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heaven's glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear."
~Emily Bronte

Friday, November 12, 2010

Longing for Mother God

I have experienced a number of restless nights this past week and on one of these occasions I found myself fighting with God. I wouldn't equate this experience to Jacob's physical battle (which, in my mind, is likely to have been metaphorical anyway). Instead I felt this insane intense need to verbally attack God while Brian and the girls were all sound asleep. Now, I feel the need to report that this is not a typical behavior, but on occasion I feel the need to expel my emotions in spoken words. And on that night I was frustrated.

I'm still not sure who to direct this anger towards. Maybe it's not the kind of anger that can be directed towards a "who"...maybe it's more suited to be attributed to a "what" instead. What preceded this midnight brawl was a relational experience that brought my mind to the book of Job. I have always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with that particular book of the Bible. I have found great comfort in it's presence in the Bible - it showcases the utter despair associated with suffering that makes no sense. On the other hand, I have also wanted to hurl my Bible against the wall when I can't quite make peace with God's words to Job beginning in chapter 38. God begins his response to Job with these words:

"Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand.  Who marked off it's dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were it's footings set, or who laid its cornerstone - while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?" (Job 38:2-7)

It dawned on me the other night why this particular book has left me feeling extremely ambivalent. I realized, maybe not for the first time, that experiencing God primarily as male has not only hindered me from developing a deeper connection to God, but it has held my theological imagination hostage for far too long. You see, as a woman I have been on the receiving end of similar tirades from men who believe they are superior many times over in my life. I have experienced the violence of others in a world married to it's hierarchies. And up until recently (as in the last 3 or 4 years) I have been conditioned and trained to perceive God as a masculine figure (a masculinity that is defined by culture of course). After all, "HE" is above and beyond all of creation...right? (side note: so fascinating that in a culture that has had repeated love affairs with hierarchies, we often focus more upon God's transcendence than Gods immanence.)

But this is where I caught myself, I uncovered the nasty trap that I keep falling into. In a certain sense, my experience of the world, or more specifically, my experience of certain men, has led to my own projection of attributes...or attitudes upon God. What if I projected feminine attributes (again, acknowledging the cultural-constructions at play here as well) upon God? How would this impact my experience of the text, my reading of the story and relationship between God and Job. I had a conversation about this particular dynamic with a girlfriend the other day and as we attempted to imagine the tone of this conversation between God and Job things began to shift substantially. We envisioned God as a mother assuring her child of the goodness and the beauty that surpasses the sufferings of the world. She's not shaming her child or putting him in his proper place in the cosmic hierarchy. Instead, she is painting a picture of the beauty of creation in a time before his arrival.

I am a product of a certain cultural context where God has been primarily viewed as masculine. I'm now longing for a season of life where I can see God through a feminine lens. Don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting that we trade one culturally-constructed projection for another, but I have been reminded this week of how much our own experiences, our own notions of power, our own ideals and perceptions, influence how we perceive God. In any relationship we seem to struggle with letting the other simply be just that...an other, which in essence requires acknowledging the other as a mystery.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

When little girls grow up to become objects

Well, my first week at attempting to stick to a rhythm of regular weekly blogging didn't exactly happen the way I had intended it to. Imagine that. Kierkegaard's quote, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions," haunts me most days of my life. But here I am, a few days late, with something to sort out.

Last Friday (the day I was supposed to be blogging in this space) I took the girls to go watch their favorite uncle jump out of an airplane at about 12,500 feet in the sky. They had the day off of school and my dad happened to be in town so we decided to finally take the plunge and watch my brother (the other sibling who seems to suffer from middle-child syndrome) get his adrenaline-fix for the day. After a lengthy drive and enduring the hour or so it took for him to prepare his gear and board the plane, we witnessed the five minute descent to earth and vicariously experienced our own adrenaline rush. Here are a few pictures from that day.

The girls were mesmerized by the number of fellas all suited up and ready to take the leap of faith.

Faith was taken by the entire experience.  She was waving frantically to Brandon at this point when she could still only spot him through the binoculars.

Bailey and Faith have both now declared that as soon as they're 18 they'd like to jump with their uncle. By that point, he might just be an instructor. But beyond just updating the blogosphere on the recent happenings in my life, I've actually been pondering a few things related to gender (surprise, surprise) since this experience. When we loaded up on the back of the trailer that transported the jumpers to their plane and proceeded to drop us off near the landing zone, I couldn't help but notice that there was not a single female jumper. In fact, during the entire duration of time that we spend at this facility, I only saw a single female jumper. And there had to have been upwards of 75-100 males geared up and ready to prove that they were men (I'm joking about that last comment...sort of).

So I was wrestling all day with the question, "Why?" Why is it that men are more drawn to these types of death-defying adventures? I began to remember what it was like when I was a little girl unbound by gender stereotypes (to a certain extent). I was considered to be a tomboy from about the age of 6-10. And I hate that term actually...because it seems to suggest that I behaved in ways that were culturally deemed more appropriate for boys. I played soccer at recess. I even liked to spit on the soccer field while I was playing. I spit so much that I acquired the nickname "Shauna Llama," given proudly by my childhood best friend, Colin (yes, my best friend was a boy). I rarely did anything with my long wispy hair, other than pull it back in a half-brushed ponytail. I couldn't wait to get home from school so I could ride my bike on the dirt mounds we had constructed in an open field behind our neighborhood. When I was 9, I helped construct a bike jump utilizing a wagon, a few rocks and a long piece of plywood. Colin dared me to jump first. The scars on my knee still remind me of this once fearless and tough young girl.

I often wonder about this young girl still today. Where did she go? What happened to her? Is she still in there underneath all the junk our culture piles atop women (and men for that matter)? And what was it that prompted such a significant shift at the age of 10? In Mary Pipher's book, Reviving Ophelia, she explores this very shift:

"Simone de Beauvoir believed adolescence is when girls realize that men have the power and that their only power comes from consenting to become submissive adored objects. They do not suffer from the penis envy Freud postulated, but from power envy."

I always knew I was an early bloomer...I guess I hit adolescence at the age of 10. My heart aches to know that little girl who had not yet consented or surrendered to being a submissive adored object because she didn't know of any other way. It's not that I long to regain that sense of adventure, or to somehow recover the strength to passionately pursue my own desires so that I can simply jump out of an airplane. No...it's so much more than that. I want that little girl to shed everything that keeps her from running toward her dreams or hinders her from being the first to test the bike jump.