Real talk: every teenage girl resents her mother. And I was certainly no different, from the approximate age of 12 through 26-ish.
(If you’re one of those sick mother/daughter Lorelai and Rory best friend combos, excuse me for a moment while I go upchuck. But congrats. You do you. Just stick with me for a minute for the sake of the analogy.)
It’s only by the grace of God that the divine saw fit to give me only boys. Because I could just imagine the karma of having my own daughter. And it would not be pretty.
There are certainly times throughout one’s life, though, when one really really needs their mom (those years full of resentment included, if not the most important).
One of the most memorable of these times, for me, was when we had just moved back home to Virginia after several years of military life, with one very energetic special needs child, another baby on the way, and not a clue what was coming next. Add on the fact that I had returned to younger siblings that were now starting their own adult lives as well and parents that were enjoying a new lifestyle as free individuals again, and all of a sudden I found myself in a bit of an identity crisis.
Everything I thought I knew wasn’t as it should be in my head. Criticism within my marriage leaked out of me and spread through my relationships with others as judgement and piousness. I was broken and I knew I needed healing, but I had no tools to work with.
You’ve been to therapy before, right? Good, because I think everyone should see a therapist at least once in their life. I’ve done it twice, and one time it was incredibly valuable to me, but this wasn’t that time. Keep reading…
I kept talking about my mom a lot. I wanted my mom’s support. I wanted her approval. I wanted to feel properly attached and connected to her during this weird transition in my life. But I also felt all of this confusing resentment towards her, I didn’t know her anymore, and I didn’t see a path towards a whole relationship with her.
Get ready to pick up your jaw.
This therapist looked straight at me and suggested that, since I was regularly attending a church, I should find a replacement mother figure at church and get the support I needed from her instead.
I gasped. Said thank you for your help and got out of there as soon as I could.
This is an approved psychotherapy coping mechanism?
I never wanted to replace my mom. I wanted to embrace her. I just couldn’t figure out how to do that on my own.
It took years (years!), a divorce, several tragedies, lots of struggle, heartbreak, tears, giggles, a few moves, dozens of family dinners, political debates, game nights, and some delicious Saturday brunches, but I finally did embrace my mom. And she embraced me too. We have a wonderful, loving, and full relationship today. I’m moved by her kindness towards my children and her generosity towards her family, more than ever before. It took a lot of growth on both of our parts, but we’re here in this beautiful place that I never imagined we’d be in (even if she did just move two hours away! ::tear::)
But let’s not talk about my mother; we really need to talk about our Mother.
This morning, as I was gathered with my friends in a gym in downtown Portsmouth, a song that we’ve sung probably a hundred times struck me a little differently than ever before.
I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like
But I’ve heard the tender whispers of love in the dead of night
And you tell me that you’re pleased
And that I’m never alone
You’re a good good father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are
And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am
This is the first verse of Good Good Father, a Christian worship song that many have probably heard and sang in their own contemporary gatherings.
Recently, I’ve been on my own personal exploration through scripture and scholarly commentary of how others find meaning in their faith and how we all have differing opinions of what God is like. Is he a white-bearded guy in the sky? Is he a king on a throne living in a castle? Is he a mystery? Is he a burning bush? Is he a chess master moving pieces around a board? Is he a zen master floating on a cloud? Is he an angry eternal punisher? Is he the singularity? Is he a quantum particle present in all matter and energy? Is he energy itself? Can we even use pronouns like “he” to describe him?
I’ve heard a thousand stories of what humans think God is like, from those with solid defined theology to those who consider themselves atheists.
I don’t have answers. Only more questions. But this exploration has lead me to this peace, this tender whisper of love in the dead of the night when I am literally physically alone, but never spiritually or emotionally alone. There is this comfort in knowing that I can’t possibly comprehend the fullness of reality, but that Christ’s work on my behalf has created this safety net for me to explore anyway.
As we continued to sing, I felt inspiration. The thought crossed my mind, what if I just changed it up and sang, “You’re a good good mother,” instead?
I might get a few looks. But we’re a fun crowd.
You see, I’ve also recently been exploring this early Jewish Mystic idea of the Holy Spirit as a feminine figure. In fact, there’s some overwhelming evidence from the first and second centuries to suggest that a mother figure was originally considered part of the trinity–and we ain’t talking about Mother Mary.
God the Father, Holy Spirit the Mother, and Jesus Christ the Son.
I about fell out of my chair when exploring the Berlin Codex and came across this. I knew of scriptural similes: God is like a mother bear, like an eagle at her nest, as a mother comforting or nursing her child, etc. But to give the Holy Spirit, a separate entity in the trinity, a female gender alongside Father and Son? I had to dig into it more.
Sure enough, there it is. Father, Mother, Son.
Of course, Jesus is the only one we can legitimately ascribe a gender to because he’s the only part of what we call the trinity that can possibly have a Y chromosome (that we know of at this point in scientific discovery). God and Spirit are of another realm–they are indescribable, but we’ve done our best to describe them with whatever words we have available to us. For early Christians, that meant making the divine both male and female, father and mother, god and spirit, both/and.
The Spirit is in this place, and I did not know it.
As we’re singing and I’m breaking down this song in my mind, I’m realizing that I had an alternative mother figure all along, but she didn’t need to replace my mom. In fact, our Mother coached me through the process of embracing my earthly mother. She was the driving force, the divine presence, the Shekhinah, behind so much healing over the past five years. I have always had this divine Mother’s support and acceptance, but I couldn’t feel connected or attached to a Mother I didn’t realize was there. I could only feel connected to the masculine presence that I recognized.
Recognizing the divine as both masculine and feminine, or rather neither of these depending on how you look at it, has been more restorative than I could have imagined.
I wonder if we as a church, meaning all followers of Christ, might consider embracing our divine Mother today like the early Jews and Christians did around the time that Jesus was breathing the very same air that we now breathe.
I don’t mean that we need to worship a woman in the sky. In fact, quite the opposite. I’m merely suggesting that we accept the possibility that the source of all creation, love, and light is so much bigger than a demographic checkbox.
“Let us make mankind in our image.”
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
Exploring the possibility of a feminine aspect of God is just as much about challenging the fact that God’s attributes are masculine. As humans, created in the image of the divine, we all have feminine and masculine qualities, not because we’re more manly or more girly, but because certain words carry certain genders attached to them. It’s not so apparent in English because our language is neutered (it doesn’t have grammatical gender like other languages do).
In the Ancient Greek language, even the word for “rock” could take on a masculine or feminine form. Petros would indicate a pebble or stone–this is masculine. Petra indicates a large immovable rock mass–this is feminine. Christ is often referred to as the Petra/Rock throughout scripture. He’s clearly a man, but they used a feminine noun to describe him. It’s because he demonstrated the feminine qualities of the feminine noun.
Some early Wisdom teachers took this idea and ran with it. And I like it.
They noticed that Jesus possessed qualities that were both masculine and feminine. And the idea of becoming “fully human” was born from this. Scriptures teach that Jesus taught his disciples the art of non-dualism to begin this process of becoming fully human throughout all of humanity. Some say that this non-duality is the Kingdom of Heaven. Regardless of whether that’s true or not, there was a balance of qualities in Christ that his followers wanted to mirror in their own lives. The first Christians, who would have considered themselves Jews, were not working to get into a place called heaven; they were working to become fully human.
And we all know that to make a human, you need a father and a mother.