Many people struggle with the somewhat patriarchal notion of “God the Father.” I’d say women struggle, but two of the most well written articles suggesting that God is female were actually written by men.
Somebody asked why it matters. Can’t God just exist beyond gender? I’m not trying to tell anybody how they must perceive God, but I am compelled to explain why it matters. First of all it matters because of scripture, because of the words written there, Adam was created first, in God’s image. God is the Father in scripture on purpose. Christ was a man, the disciples were men. The angels are men. Women are not forgotten at all, women figure very prominently in the bible, a fact that is really quite miraculous given the times.
It matters too, because of what it says about us as a people, what we are saying when we fear embracing the concept of God as a loving Father. That father fracture and what it reveals about us as a people, permeates every aspect of our society. We’re living in a culture full of broken homes, single parents, rampant divorce, people alienated and separated from their fathers, wounded by their fathers, in fear of their fathers, feeling rejected by their fathers. Men feeling lost and confused because they aren’t sure what their role is anymore.
It’s very difficult to have a personal relationship with God the Father when you have nothing to relate it too, or worse, negative ideas of what Fatherhood is all about. Yes, we can try to give God a genderless persona and avoid the whole issue entirely, but when we do that it is a bit like trying to cover up a raging infection with a band aid. We deprive ourselves of the healing that is possible when we are willing to look at the truth.
For women, our fathers, or lack thereof, will really color our future relationships with men in general. Those relationships with men color how we raise our sons, how we perceive our own selves, our relationship with God, the type of communities we create, on and on it goes, springing forth from one small fracture…
My own Father and I were separated in a custody battle when I was 3. I didn’t see him again until I was 13. It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s and we began to heal that relationship that I truly came into faith fully. What I came to realize is that my father is actually a good half of my identity, of who I am. That’s a scary thing to confront if you had an imperfect father, and perfect ones are extremely rare. But once I began to forgive and to sense the love there, suddenly God the Father came into focus. That same love was reflected back in my husband and had an awful lot to do with making it possible for our marriage to work at all. If I had remained detached from my own father, unable to relate to God the Father, unwilling to embrace half my identity, my poor husband would not have stood a chance. I would have perceived him as the enemy far more than I already did.
It’s a really difficult concept to express, but a large part of our identities as women actually come from men. We carry our fathers within us, we give birth to our sons, we build these marriages with men, this idea of one flesh. Men are an integral part of who we are as women. God is also within us, as the Father, as Christ, male. There is a spiritual symbiosis there between women and men, we are not really separate entities.
I know there can be awful men in the world that leave lots of scars behind. Women don’t really forgive men for their sakes however, we do it for our own. Long ago I knew a woman who had an atrocious father, lots of reasons why she should have completely rejected the idea of men having any role in anything ever again, but she didn’t. She decided to forgive him and he had since died, so we went to a cemetery. I really thought she was nuts, just let it go, put it behind you. She told me something I’ve never forgotten however, she said “I have to forgive him because he’s half of who I am. If I reject him, I only bring half of myself to Christ.”
That’s why it matters.