HEALING: “God Is A Father; More Than That, God Is A Mother” (John Paul 1) by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

Healing Our Image of God

From: Good Goats

At times I (Dennis) resisted changing my image of God from that of child abuser to child lover.  At first I thought that my resistance was to changing my theology.  But I discovered that my real resistance was to changing my personality.

First, to stop reading scripture so literally and to begin to appreciate its images and symbols, I needed to rely less on my ability to think and more on my underdeveloped feeling side.  Secondly, to appreciate how God loves the unrepentant sinner, how grace is not earned but given as a free gift, I had to become more at home with receiving from others rather than always compulsively doing things for them.  In summary, I needed to integrate feminine values into my deeply skewed male value system.

I grew up with a male skew.  I was good at efficiency, building things in the outer world, competing, and dominating my environment.  I believed that external authorities had all the answers.  Heaven and hell were places “out there.”  Like many men, I was oriented toward outer space.  I was not so good at the feminine values of caring for things as they are, mutuality or experiencing my own feelings and body wisdom.  I didn’t know that truth is also found within, and that Heaven and hell have an inner meaning, as measures of my own connectedness or disconnectedness to God, myself, others, and the entire universe.  I was out of touch with the feminine dimension of inner space.

In order to become a more balanced person, I needed to develop my feminine side, and in order to develop my feminine side I needed to know God the Mother.  All language for God is metaphorical; God is not literally a father.  But if God is like a father, then God is also like a mother.  Male and female, loving mothers and fathers reflect for us equally the image of God (Genesis 1:27).  Why is this so important?

Just as we become like our human parents, we also become like the God we adore.  If we were raised only by a human father and never knew a mother, it is likely that our feminine side will be undeveloped.  In the same way, if we know only God the Father and not also God the Mother, it is likely that our feminine side will be undeveloped and that our emotional and spiritual life will have a masculine skew, as mine did.

But I am changing as people like Sheila and Hilda introduce me to the feminine side of God.  In embracing her unrepentant son, Hilda personified for me what John Paul II referred to as rahamim, or the tender compassion coming from the motherly side of God.  The root of rahamim is the Hebrew noun, rehem, meaning “womb” or “uterus.”  This motherly womb-love of God is expressed in Isaiah 49:15: “Can a mother forget her infant, or be without tenderness for the child of her womb?  Even should she forget you, I will never forget you.”  Such womb-love is gut energy.  Not filtered through the head, it has nothing to do with decision or merit.  As in Hilda’s case, it comes from interior necessity; a real mother “can’t help but love the brat.”  In other words, just as God is more father than any father, God is also more mother than any mother.

When Hilda discovered that the deepest movement of her heart, her “womb-love” for her child, was an expression of God’s love, and that her desire to embrace her son was God’s desire, she was introducing me to the feminine side of God and teaching me to perceive God in a feminine way.  My masculine emphasis on outer space had affected my way of perceiving God.  I had known mainly the transcendent God, who was found “out there.”  My God was the infinitely mighty one who is beyond anything or anyone else, the “King” and “Lord” of the Christian hymns I grew up singing.  This God was always ahead of me, calling me to change and grow.  In contrast, Hilda’s connection with her inner space revealed to me a God who is immanent and lives within the deepest movements of my heart.  This God loves me exactly as I am, without needing to fix or change me.  When the masculine within me was not balanced by the feminine, it became a caricature of itself rather than the beauty and strength of true masculinity.

When I don’t have both sides of God, I easily get fixated in a male way of being.  A symptom of such fixation would be the thought that “God will certainly send Hilda’s son to hell.”  Such thinking ascribes to God my male overemphasis on dominance, control, and competition, in which there are clear winners and losers.

As long as we have an all-male God, what happened to me will also happen to our culture and our church.  Their values too will be those of domination and competition, in which we devalue women, do not develop our feminine side, and do not trust or cherish the inner life of ourselves or others.  And so long as we believe our culture when it tells us that it is good to dominate and be in control, we will reinforce our exclusively male image of God.

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