It was 10:30 p.m., and I was lying under my sheet and quilt in the same blue jeans that I had put on at a.m. I felt sooty, sweaty and claustrophobic. I hate wearing day clothes in bed, but it was all part of my genius plan to nurse my sick son until he fell asleep. Maybe then I could finally take a shower. Well 10:30p.m. soon turned to midnight, and my poor little 5-month- old was still restless with a fever. I had long told my husband to just go to bed; sick nursing babies don’t want anything to do with their fathers anyway. I had given up any chance of doing something mentally stimulating, and now it was clear that I wasn’t even going to get my long-awaited shower. The only thing left to do was to try and go to sleep alongside him. That was not even going to happen. He was coughing and sneezing in my face. His hot body, gleaning against my body for relief and comfort, left me covered in snot and sweat. At one point, he gagged so hard that he threw up breastmilk all over my clothing. It was going to be a long night for the both of us. In the wee hours of the morning, I lay awake with a cold rag wiping his body down readying to nurse him for the umpteenth time. I remember thinking in my head, “This is why some people call God ‘Mama’”. In that instant, I thought about the debate raging in Christendom about which pronouns we should use for God.
Recently a battle of sorts has emerged, in which certain groups are pushing to use feminine names and pronouns for God, while others are demanding that God be referred to only using masculine language. Those advocating for feminine pronouns usually sight Hebrew and Greek words and assert that the Holy Spirit is feminine in the original language of the Bible. They sight all of the Bible passages in which God is represented as being like a mother. Those demanding to use masculine language sight that God calls Himself “Father” and “Son” in the Bible. They fear that in the name of women’s equality, people are changing the clear message of the Bible and are changing who God has declared Himself to be. In fact, many believe that calling God ‘She’ is blatantly heretical to Christian theology.
In this fierce battle over how to address God, I believe that the Church is being distracted from two vital truths. First of all, God is beautiful and complex beyond our comprehension. Utilizing every word in the languages of humanity, we would utterly fail in adequately ascribing everything to which God’s name is due. Ultimately, Christians are called to become more like Christ. We are not called to ensure that God bears our image. We are already created in God’s image. From the onset, it is important to realize that the Bible uses language that we can understand to explain more complex and profound spiritual truths about God. While the language in the Bible used to describe God is accurate, it is not exhaustive. There are many names/titles used for God in the Bible. Very often, God is named according to His actions with His people. So, for Hagar, God is called “El Roi,” the God who sees me. For Abraham God is called “Jehovah Jireh,” the Lord who provides. After God allowed Moses and the Israelites to be triumphant in battle, Moses declares that God is “Yahweh-Nissi,” meaning the Lord is my banner. Psalms 27:10 says, “Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close.” In this reading, it is reasonable to grasp that God can act as a father or as a mother. It is, therefore, not
unreasonable that some may see God more as a mother based on their own personal experience of who God has been for them in their life. The night that I was up late with my son, I understood a smidgen of the love and care that God has for me based on the sacrificial love that I was lavishing on my baby. I have seen the love of a good father in action, but from personal experience, I can attest this: A mother’s love is fierce, just as God’s love is fierce! This leads me to my final point. We are called to become more like Jesus. We are told to not be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). We are told to love one another as Jesus has loved us (John 13:34-35). We are told to be holy because our God is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). Verse after verse, God calls us to become more like Him. This is not a call to be more masculine or more feminine, but to become more loving, committing ourselves to the works of God.
So instead of trying to understand God in our incredibly limited inadequate language, we should aim to be like Him by doing the works that Jesus did. Instead of fighting one another over God’s pronouns and titles, we should remember that God is complex and not solely defined by any one action or title.
Consider this: God the Holy Spirit both impregnates (Luke 1:35) and gives birth (John 3:5-8). Men impregnate. Women give birth. God does both.
We would do well as Christians to join in God’s work and realize that when we do what God is calling us to do, we are becoming more like God, even in the act of being a loving neighbor, citizen and yes, even mother.
Leah Ross is on the administrative team of Ezer Rising. She contributes regularly throughout the week. She is passionate about healing the wounds of sexism and racism within the Church and being a voice for the voiceless. By bringing truth to light, she hopes to help people recover from the damage of lies being taught in the Church. Ultimately, she longs to see people reclaim their relationship with God and to realize that they have always been loved. She blogs regularly and has written for several Christian egalitarian blogs. She is married to Bill Ross, her high school sweetheart, and they have five children, who she loves on and cares for nonstop. When she’s not working with the local school board, she’s usually somewhere writing blog posts or poetry. She can be found shopping in the organic section, running in a race, watching cartoons with her little ones or having a deep spiritual conversation with her husband. Oh yeah, and every now and then she gets to take a nap.