Most of us here in the U.S. grew up within the tradition of a monotheistic faith which worshipped a Father God. Have you heard of the concept of a Mother God? If so, do you remember the context in which you first heard about it? How did you feel about it? How do you feel about it now?
Of course most of us were exposed to Greek mythology in school. We studied the various gods and goddesses and heard about the various stories of infidelity, revenge, etc.
These supposed gods and goddesses all felt much more human to me than divine. But what about the concept of a Great Goddess? A Creator in female form? The Great Mother? Have you heard of her? Does she resonate at all?
I remember my first exposure to the concept of God as a She. It was the Grammy’s. It was the year Helen Reddy won Best Female Performance for the song “I am Woman.” I remember very distinctly that in her conclusion she thanked God “because She makes all things possible.” It was a completely startling thing for me to hear, and yet I felt no judgment or weirdness about it. It was more like a “huh” kind of feeling. Mostly I thought she probably just wanted to shock everyone. And back then, I’m sure she was successful.
For two decades, I don’t remember hearing anything else in pop culture about the concept of God as Mother. But then I happened upon a book called The Feminine Face of God, by Sherry Ruth Anderson and Patricia Hopkins. I was so captivated by it that I immediately ordered ten copies from the local bookstore and promptly organized a discussion group around it. Anderson writes about stumbling upon the concept of Shekhinah. Shekhinah is a Hebrew word which means the indwelling or settling of Divine Presence. The word is in feminine form. This word, plus a powerful sacred dream she’d had a month earlier, were a wake-up call for Anderson. Ultimately it led to interviewing a whole host of women who had found a spirituality which had more of a feminine bent.
About that same time I was involved in training for a kind of body/mind therapy called Unergi. During these training modules, we would watch our teacher facilitate a session and then eventually we would practice on one another. I so distinctly remember one particular day. I have no idea what issue I was grappling with, but I do remember trying to come to peace about it and finding myself struck with the then-radical idea of imagining myself laying my head in the lap of a God who was female. I could easily imagine her stroking my hair and comforting me. This was definitely not something I could imagine with the male God we were all taught to believe in. It was quite a profound moment for me.
Another instrumental book for me was When God Was a Woman, by Merlin Stone. The research she conducted was so in-depth and so profoundly eye-opening that it was hard to discount it. Then more recently, I read a non-fiction memoir by Sue Monk Kidd, the author of the fabulous novel The Secret Life of Bees. Kidd is a minister’s wife who used to write an inspirational Christian column. But in Dance of the Dissident Daughter, she writes about what it was like to finally realize she was a woman living within a very confined role in a Church system that she eventually realized was quite patriarchal. She writes eloquently about her process of discovering both a God and a spirituality which not only included but embraced the female.
Now, almost forty years after Helen Reddy’s speech, it feels so obvious to me that God is not strictly one gender, that there are both masculine and feminine energies within the Almighty. Furthermore, since it is the female who gives birth, who brings forth life, then why could the Creator not also be female? In addition, the concept of a vengeful, jealous, punitive God never rang true for me. But God as Mother? I was so… relieved to realize this could also be true. This struck a chord deep within my soul.
I still believe in God with a capital G. I still pray to that God. But like my friend, David, I love the expression Mother/Father God. That feels so much more… whole to me.
Whatever your belief system, may you find within the Holy One compassion, love, and grace. May you walk through life as a beloved child of this Holy One. And may you live well.