There has been a lot made in the last little while about the gender of God.
Is God our mother or our father.
For some, hearing “mother” in front of God sends a liberal shiver down their spine. They can only see God as a strong and mighty warrior.
For others, they might say, this is an old conversation. It’s old news in many circles to whom evangelicals and many mainline churches might call “liberal.”
However, this question is not something that should be pushed aside.
What do we do when someone cannot see God as a father due to a damaging relationship with their own? Or how about the person who had a toxic mother and knowing that there is a perfect mother in God is restorative? Maybe there is someone who never knew either parent, are we supposed to say God is only a mother or only a father?
There is a lot to this, and it is vitally important that we understand the question of God being a mother or a father. So, which one?
To which I would answer, YES!
(Some of you just hit the x on your browser.)
In Genesis 1, it states that both Male and Female are created in the image of God. I have known many women and some men who have struggled with this concept because of how God is spoken of in male language. Is God more concerned with them being able to refer to “Him” in a masculine tense than “He” is with them being able to connect?
We understand language has its limitations. When that language is coming from a patriarchal dominated society, those limits can become baggage. What we see as we look through the Scripture is a personal God, and thus a Gow who relates to us in a personal way.
As I look through Scripture, I can’t help but see a God who is more concerned with you being able to relate, than a God who has to be seen as either mother or father, as if the genitalia is an essential part of God.
I would argue that if you are dogmatic about God being either mother or father, that the problem isn’t the other side, it’s you.
The Scriptures paint the picture of a God who is more concerned with us being able to see him/her in our limited capacity than portraying him/herself as something so that we cannot see God at all. After all, any picture we do have of God is limited by our knowledge and experience. What God does is reveal him/her-self to us, and as we grow in the relationship reveals more. Isaiah writes, “Can you picture me without reducing me?” Isaiah 46 (MSG)
No, we can’t!
Whatever picture you have of God, it’s incomplete.Tweet
Yet, we must relate to God. So, is God Mother, Father, or both? Here are a few verses.
“like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft.”(Dt 32:11)
As a father has compassion on his children,Psalm 103:13-14
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
As a mother comforts her child,(Is 66:13).
so will I comfort you;
and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.
“Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, The mighty in battle.”Psalm 24:8
He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.”(1 Ki 19:4–9).
Maybe God’s a Nonna?
“Going a little further, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass for him. ‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”(Mark 14:35-36
“I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them.”Ho 11:4.
God is both our perfect Mother and Father. However, he is not limited to either. John 4 tell us that God is Spirit!
If you can’t relate to God as Father, try Mother on until he can heal the wound. If you can’t refer to God as Mother, try Father. God would rather you be in a relationship than not. It is only as we begin our relationship–allowing God to heal our hearts–that God is willing to meet us at where we are at, in order to reveal His/Her character in fullness so that we may know abounding grace and love.
Most importantly, know that we have a heavenly mother/father who loves you and wants you to know him/her intimately.
How do you see God, Mom or Dad….or Nonna?
It all started back in 1994. It was the summer between grade 4 and 5. I had moved out of my love for baseball (back to back world series champions, the Toronto Blue Jays were my love) due to the MLB strike, cancelling the world series that year, and had moved on to a new love, the NBA. I was in with the Orlando Magic.
Shaq and Penny. What a duo.
But in summer of ’94, an announcement came that divided my heart. Toronto and Vancouver were awarded franchises. Basketball had come back to Canada. Suddenly my loyalty shifted.
This is why I needed to find a way! A way to what? To watch the Toronto Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks. I saw on someone’s Facebook feed that there were links to sites where I could watch. I found a link, and I enjoyed the bliss of watching the Raps head to the NBA finals for the very first time!!!!!!
However, the next day, I had a problem. I was trying to back up my files to my external hard drive and but it wouldn’t connect. No matter which port I plugged the USB into, nothing. I tried all the tricks google would spit at me, and nothing still.
Immediately I rushed to the apple store. I was scared to death that there was a serious problem with my laptop. Hoping for the best, but fearing the worst, I imagined a virus attaching every file on my computer and me only being able to salvage the most pertinent ones. Luckily for me, I just looked like a dope.
Well, because as soon as the expert tried, the hard drive in question kicked in, booted up, and connected. The tech opened my chrome browser and began to google something when, pop pop pop pop! Popups were everywhere.
I went into the Apple store, thinking I had one problem, and as it turned out, I had another.
Being a pastor means encountering a lot of people. People begin to come to church or explore faith, thinking that they have one particular problem in their life. It might be their marriage, their kids, their job, or their health. They come looking for the answer to their perceived problem.
It reminds me of a story Walter Isaacson tells in his book about Steve Jobs. The predecessor of Steve Jobs’ second run at running Apple was Gil Amelio. While describing what he believed his role at Apple was, he said,
“‘You know, Gina, Apple is like a ship,’ Amelio answered. ‘That ship is loaded with treasure, but there’s a hole in the ship. And my job is to get everyone to row in the same direction. ‘Smith looked perplexed and asked, ‘Yeah, but what about the hole?'”Walter Isaacson
Amelio perceived that his job was one thing. However, it was clear that he was completely blind to the actual problem. THERE’S A HOLE IN THE BOAT!
It is easy to perceive what the problems in our life are. We want the issue that we think is the issue fixed and we pray to God to fix it. God, on the other hand, is more concerned with the root of the issue rather than treating the symptom.Tweet
It is like going to a mechanic because when you put your foot on the break it makes a grinding noise, but telling them they aren’t allowed to change your breaks and rotors.
It is hard to self diagnose. The marriage, the sadness, the lack of fulfilment are all symptoms. Just as I needed an outside voice to speak into my problems, so we all need an outside voice to look and see the actual problem. We think we have a hard drive problem when we are infected with Malware.
Usually, something from our past that has given us filters that we hear through and lenses we see through. Past circumstances have influenced why we have made the decisions we have made.
You might be able to say that if the Raptors never came to Toronto in ’95, then I would have never got Malware in ’19.
In my new book, Hidden Faces: Discovering Our True Identity in Christ, I speak of how we have diagnosed the problem and put different masks, (or faces) trying to fix the problem. In actuality, we have believed the lie from the garden of Eden, that we are not who God has said we are. God has declared that you are his child and that He has sent His son to make you whole.
For that to happen, we have to be willing to see the hole in the boat and admit that we need God to fix it. We must admit that our problem isn’t our problem.
Be lifted high, in my life
I invite you to move
We magnify, you in our lives
We invite you to move
We invite you to move
Mighty, is the name of Jesus
For he’s the only one who saves
Strong holds, fall down before him
He deserves our only praise
And when the water rise
life filled with strife
Only you can satisfy
but I’ll lift my praise
My hands I’ll raise
for only you can save
Higher, is the name of Jesus
For he has bridged the great divide
Holy, There’s none above thee
Great is your love in our lives
Our Father who art in Heav’n
Glory to your name
You Kingdom Come, your Will be done
Give us our daily needs
Forgive us and our enemies
Bm 7 G
And lead us not into temptation
Yours all power, yours all glory
Be Yours for ever and ever
G D C2 G/B
Yours Be, the Glory, for ever and ever X2
Em Bm7 C2 G/B
Yours be, The glory, For ever and ever
I was so uncomfortable. Mainly because my ankle was the size of an elephant trunk! (I ruptured my Achilles Tendon. If you feel inclined you can check out a pic of my ankle that night on my Instagram feed. It’s gross, but it’s worth the peak).
Here I was at District Conference just trying to concentrate when I heard one of the most profound statements about the ministry I’ve ever heard from someone who had all the accolades.
Some context. The current District Superintendent was about to honour a man who had been a credential holder in the denomination for 50 years. It is quite an accomplishment. This man had pastored many different churches and even was the District superintendent for a substantial time. Great things were accomplished in his ministry, yet when reflecting on his fifty years, he said no great memories of ministries stood out.
Then he said something that should have led to a mic drop.
He stated, “My memories are not the positions I had or the policies I helped administer. What I remember is the people. A man whose life was turned around. A marriage that was restored. The faces of the different lives that were changed.”
What a great reminder. Ten million people could read this, but is that really what I’m going to remember after 50 years of ministry? Is it the positions I held, or the accolades I achieved? Probably not. At least it hasn’t been so far.
Thus far what I remember are the teenagers whose lives have been radically changed by God. The marriages that are stronger today that were headed for failure. I recall the person who had suffered tremendous loss who has found joy in Jesus.
I don’t know your success or failures. Big–small–significant–minute. When we long to hear Jesus say, “Well done, my good and faith servant” (Matt 25), we must remember the commendation of Peter, “Feed my Sheep” (John 21).
It’s hard not to get sucked in achievement, advancement, and climbing the ladder. Yet, when looking at ministry we must always keep our eye on what’s important, the sheep, the people.Tweet
In the words of a wise credential holder fifty years down the road of vocational ministry:
Remember the people.