Imagine God Differently
You learn something new every day.
In fact, I was today years old when I discovered that El Shaddai, one of the names of God in the Hebrew Scriptures, originated from the word shad, which was used to denote fertility.
In other words, this particular name of God conjured up feminine imagery to those who first used it to describe God.
Over time, however, it took on new meanings, mostly related to destruction, protection, war-like, etc. The idea of God having a "softer" side didn't do it for those who trusted in power, might, and weapons more than God.
Language is powerful, and the language we use to describe God typically reflects how we feel about God or imagine God.
And I should also say that authentic feminine imagery is not weak by any stretch of the imagination. It is powerful, mighty, and strong in ways that most masculine images are not.
Many years ago, I stopped using gender-specific words when I spoke or wrote about God. It had nothing to do with feeling "woke," as some folks are fond of saying in a pejorative way, lately.
It had to do with the fact that I realized that by referring to God as "He" all the time, I was limiting my understanding and imagining of God. I was narrowing down how I thought and felt about God by how I spoke of God.
You could argue that speaking of God at all is a limiting exercise, but that's a totally different Devo.
I thought the other day about the implications of speaking of God in ways solely focused on masculine descriptors, and my mind went spinning, as it often does.
Limiting how we speak about God affects how we understand how God moves and works in the world around us.
It gives us only one part of a multi-part story. And it also affects our theology in that it tends to give pride-of-place to passages of Scripture where (just being honest) primitive people just plain got God wrong.
Fr. Richard Rohr said this beautifully:
Today on many levels, we are witnessing an immense longing for the mature feminine at every level of our society--from our politics to our economics, in our psyche, our cultures, our patterns of leadership, and our theologies, all of which have become far too warlike, competitive, mechanistic and non-contemplative. We are terribly imbalanced.
Far too many expressions of Christianity held to and have retained a one-sided view of God that doesn't consider that when God created humankind in God's image, the image in question wasn't a dude.
The image was all of us.
Because we are all created in God's image, and we best reflect that image when we recognize the Divine in one another and are willing to embrace what some might call God's "feminine side."
And there is also a "masculine" side of God's image, lest you think I am totally one-sided in my approach. See what I did there?
But it's not toxic masculinity that expresses that aspect of God- the kind bent on winning at all costs, destructive, misogynistic, and frail.
Instead, this expression of God's image is kind, strong in all the right ways, protective of the innocent, and a friend to the friendless.
Imagine what might happen if we all began to imagine God differently, in all ways that the Scriptures imagine God. Imagine how that might change our destructive theologies and create a space for grace for everyone.
May it be so, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all, now and always. Amen.