Just to clear things up, I don’t have “daddy issues”. My relationship with my dad is wonderful. He and my mom are two of my favorite people. They raised me and my brothers to always question the things around us. They helped build the very foundations of my faith. They also had a wonderful mentor and teacher in church during their high school years in the 70’s, who taught them not to put their faith in a box. For my parents who always supported my curiosity, doubt, and resistance to conform, I am grateful.
I am one of those women, always side-eyed in church for changing “Father” to “Parent”/ “Creator” or “Him”/“He” to “God”. Occasionally, I’ll reference God as “Mother” or use the pronouns “Her” and “She”. I have used Divine One, Holy One, Divine Mother, Divine Parent, and Creator of All Things among many other terms. I don’t do this for attention, try purposefully to make others uncomfortable, or to make a theological statement. It isn’t for anyone else, contrary to what some cis-gendered males who bristle at the sound of a femine noun or pronoun being used for their Father God.
Beginning in seminary and continuing in the years to follow, my narrow view of God from my childhood began to bloom and blossom into something indescribable and life-giving for me. The more I understood about Biblical culture, studied the original Greek and Hebrew text, digested scripture, and learned to trust the whisper in the winds (the Rûaħ) on my spiritual journey about who/what/when/where/how/why God is, I discovered a Divine Presence much wider, much greater, and even less describable than what our human brains can conceive. I began to understand a God willing to become “lesser” in order for humanity to begin to articulate the very nature of God with words. We try to understand God through the only reality we know-- our beings, bodies, experiences, sexes, genders, labels, pronouns, biases, and limitations.
When my children were old enough to have conversations about God, my spouse and I always made sure to refer to God as equally Father and Mother, Parent, Creator, and Love. My children’s favorite way of describing God quickly became, “God is not a boy or a girl. God is bigger than bodies.” One of my 5 yr-old-twins even got in what he recalls as a heated debate with an adult who insisted that God was a man, telling the adult, “God is bigger than that. God’s both. God’s neither.” If you’re thinking that doesn’t make much sense, you’re right. It doesn’t. How can God be both male and female, man and woman, him and her, Father and Mother, but also be neither male and female, man and woman, him and her, Father and Mother? Our minds cannot rationalize it. We cannot sort it out because for so long, we couldn’t even understand gender fluidity among people, much less the Divine. It’s right there in Genesis, God created man and woman in God’s own image. God’s image was reflected in men and women, male and female. God’s very being was both and neither, because God was beyond the physical limitations of these soul-sacks, people- shaped meat bags, we call our bodies.
When we teach our children a white-washed, cis-gendered Gospel according to a lily white, Santa-ish God, we grossly narrow the scope, breadth and depth, and richness of a God who reflects the image of all people beyond gender, sex, race, age, ability, sexuality, and all other socially constructed labels. God is so much more than these constructs. God is boundless, yet we are constantly confining the Divine to the limits of our understanding. In this way, we somehow try to encapsulate an infinite being into a well defined box.
God’s bigness, God’s boundless existence, God’s who/what/where/where/why/how makes it really difficult to speak, sing, and write about God in a succinct, practical way. While some hymns or scripture readings are easy to alter nouns and pronouns, others prove to be more of a challenge and result with me staring at the text, trying to find a way to make it work in a certain hymn tune to fit the timing or the rhyming lyric. I’ll never forget hearing my 9 yr-old daughter unprompted sing “God” in place of “Him” during a Sunday morning service. I waited for her to turn and smile at me, seeking my approval, but she wasn’t doing it for me. She connected to the idea that God was bigger than “him” or “her”.
As I was filling out some paperwork recently, I came across a question on a form I’ve begun to see more and more. The form questioned, “What pronouns do you prefer?” I had an immediate thought, “No one ever asked God what pronouns God preferred.” It may sound like a silly thought to have, but the stories of scripture took place and were recorded in a time and culture where women were considered property, arguably more “it” than “her”. Women were considered nothing without men. They were thought to be dirty, evil, and sinful because of their periods, “cursed” to have painful childbirths, and expected to carry out certain roles within a household. They were silenced in so many ways. While several women are introduced in scripture, very few are given more than a few lines of existence, even fewer are given names. Imagine if we could hear from the women who knew Jesus. Imagine if we knew their names and heard their voices. What stories would they tell and how would they describe God?
God represents all of humanity, not just one aspect of it. Narrowing the nature and existence of God to Father, unintentionally constructs a hierarchy of who knows/understands God more fully and identifies with God more wholly. Many images of God in Christian churches across America depict God as an old, white haired, fair skinned, slightly plump man. These images are hung in our churches, depicted in our stained glass windows, and printed in the pages of our Bibles. They are presented as fact but are fiction. They are not sacred and unquestionable. They are merely an artist’s interpretation of who God is. Ask yourself how you see God and where that image comes from? Does my challenging of your image of God make you uncomfortable? Why?
My study and interpretation of scripture has led me to the belief that God is much bigger, more complex, less flesh and bones, than our brains can fathom. But if we must see God as human, God is non-binary (genderfluid or genderqueer and agender). God is male and female, and God is neither male nor female. Maybe someone should’ve asked God for their preferred pronouns.