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 other, which in essence requires acknowledging the other as a mystery.


Chris Bruno said...

You have entered the dilemma of God so well here. As I sit and imagine what the Job-God conversations would sound like if they came from a feminine voice, I am truly changed by the text in a totally new way. Thanks for introducing that hermeneutic -- it is so needed today.

As one who works with men and the masculine journey, I think that your perspective is so vital to our (everyone's) understanding of God. I find it fascinating that the words "masculine" and "power" are synonymous -- not just today but throughout human history. I don't think that's how God intended -- for there is great power in the feminine. But our cultures have linked these two terms in such a way that creates distance, violence, and death. Thanks for wrestling that free.

mitchellunited said...

Lovely. Thank you.
Have you read The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman's Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine by Sue Monk Kidd?...i haven't finished it, but seems fitting to what you write.

Denise Miller said...

Shauna Gauthier, I love you. I just wrote something about Mother God and I couldn't get you out of my head, despite not seeing you for years. You've been a powerful example of feminine power in my life, of what us women are capable of. With girl power on my mind, I've been feeling compelled to seek you out, so I googled you and found your blog and lo and behold, you've recently written about the same thing (guess that's not too shocking).
Thank you for all the empowerment you give others.