Male? Female? Neither? Both? Who is God?

Who is God… really? This is the one big kerfluffle–among other kerfluffles–entertaining Christians on social media, or distressing some, as the case may be. Some are intrigued, some are distressed, and some cry heresy and apostasy. But what does God say, when He speaks for Himself?

Personally, I’m fascinated by the question, and have been for many years. It started when I was 21, a conservative Mennonite Christian, shocked by such a representation. To say it out loud felt particularly scandalous and disrespectful, because God was a ‘He’–and not only in the pronoun sense, but in a male-gender-specific identity. All my life He had been this big man in the sky with a powerful stick. I feared Him. But never for a day in my life did I wish Him to be female. And I still don’t. But my reasons are entirely selfish; I’ll be honest. Too many women with influence and power in my early life were manipulators and in my mind it was much harder to deal with than a big, mean–even violent–male, who is at least predictably harsh and unkind. That was my view of men, generally, and women, just as generally. Why would I want a God with female attributes? A cosmic manipulator? Yeah… No thanks.

And then I read the Bible and things started jumping out at me differently; a God with feminine characteristics and attributes, but not a manipulator. I had read the verses before, but my conditioning had caused me to miss what was right there. When I read the first part of Genesis, over and over, picking through it with a fine-tooth comb, trying to grasp everything in it. Creation. Man. Woman. Mankind. In God’s image and likeness. Both of them. A reflection of the Almighty… Me? You? I found it hard to absorb that He had made females in His image and likeness, as well as males. (Image: צֶ֫לֶם noun Masculine. Likeness:  דְּמוּת noun feminine… not to mention the very direct wording.)

The thought of God looking at me as His reflection rocked my world and gave me a sense of eternal identity like nothing I had ever known. For many years I had believed that God was/is male, that men are made in His image and likeness, and women are… well ‘the refined version of man’, made in man’s image but prettier, softer and curvier. Someone had actually made a statement to this general effect when I was a preteen or teen, and I bought into it as truth. (Coincidentally, moments after typing this a friend private messaged me on Facebook–not knowing I am working on this blog, and that I just wrote this–and said: “I thought woman was in the image of man to be his help mate”. Clearly I am not alone in this belief/teaching.)

Reading the first few chapters of Genesis as though I had never heard them before, and re-reading it numerous times, what stood out was Genesis 1:26-27 where God clearly states making ‘male and female’ in His own image. If we, God’s daughters, are made in the image and likeness of God, it can mean only one thing; the triune God has feminine characteristics. Some insist it is only the Holy Spirit who displays feminine attributes–the nurturer who comes and comforts–others say the whole thing is heretical, at best, and anyone who ascribes to such a belief is an apostate who no longer believes in the One True God. But when I read my Bible, with no agenda, as it is written, I see over and over again that God is shown “…as a mother…”, and “…as a father”, and Jesus is always “the Son”, therefore to refute any feminine characteristics in God is to refute parts of the Bible. Even so, when I ‘picture’ God, I don’t get the image of a female. Ever. But I no longer get an image of a male either. I get a sense of mystery and wonderment. A God who shows up in a burning bush… in a dove… through a donkey–and a female donkey at that… It begs the question, what have we done to femininity and womanhood to find it the one ‘vessel’ unfit for God? Why is this the one thing by which we are so offended? Is a female donkey really so much more sacred than a woman made in God’s image and likeness? Or has religion warped our view of femininity to such an extent?

talking donkey

Frankly, it disturbs me that the Bible gives examples of God showing up through objects and creatures, and no one finds it scandalous, and yet when the Bible clearly states it, those who accept at face value that God has feminine attributes are silenced, judged and slandered. What a shame and tragedy.

Do I believe then that God is female, as opposed to male? Maybe both? Or neither? Here is what I believe, without apology: God is neither male nor female. He is generally portrayed as a Father, sometimes a husband, sometimes as a mother, and in Jesus He is male (and a brother). He is not limited to ‘form and body’, nor is He ‘gendered’ or subject to the terms we assign Him based on our limited human understanding. He is simply the Great I Am. The “I Am that I Am”, who enters our broken experience in whatever form He chooses. As His daughter, made in His image, I do not think He finds femininity repulsive or beneath His dignity; I believe it is a part of who He is. I reflect that part of Him, and He quite delights in me.

And my husband, who has loved me well, and reflects God beautifully….  I think God is kind of like that, just more perfect, holy, and without flaw or weakness. A ‘male’ God doesn’t frighten me, but limiting God to such ideologies is not biblical and I won’t pretend it just to win a crowd.

Love,
~ T ~

 © Trudy Metzger

Pre-Mother’s Day Rant: Femininity & Over-Sexualized Culture

The Thursday night pre-Mother’s-Day “Girls Night Out” sale at Marks Work Wear House proved to be a worthwhile, but crazy experience.

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I headed out at noon, with plans to shop early, and get it over with. I don’t love shopping so much these days. It’s a necessity, not therapy, or pleasure or addiction. It’s what must be done. That ‘mission to be accomplished’ feeling makes crowds in stores more stressful, and shopping less fun. I would avoid that, going early.

I arrived at the store and, sure enough, it was busy, but not insane. That was great until I discovered the ‘additional 20%’ discount doesn’t start until evening. There I was, with a few summer tops and scarves. Twenty percent is a big deal, so I decided I’d return later. But before I left, I tended to one little matter….

There was one sweater on sale, in white, but not available in my size. I knew I’d get a lot of use out of–presuming it doesn’t get a stain… I avoid white unless it’s bleachable–so I had the kind cashier call the other stores to see if they had one my size.

She directed me to another store in Kitchener, where they would hold one with my name on it. I made my way to the store, about ten minutes away…

At the store, the cashier looked confused. There was no sweater on hold. I explained where I had come from, that the other store had called and confirmed, and it should be there. One cashier remembered the call, but said he told them there is none. Still, they checked again. I waited.

The cashier returned. Still no sweater. She would call all the other stores, she said, and find out who it was that had one. They called. Again I waited.

Apologetically she explained that there were no sweaters locally. Far away there might be one, but not close by. Sorry, she said, looking quite worried.

It’s okay, I told her. These things happen. It’s life.

She looked relieved, giggled and sighed, “Wow! I thought you’d be more angry. You’re not even upset. I thought you’d be mad.” She handed me a card. An additional 20% off of any purchases, store wide.

I thanked her, and left. An additional 20%, meant 40% off my purchases, some of which were already marked down by 30%. That’s 70%. I slipped it into my wallet and returned home.

At 8:00pm I slipped back to the store where my items were on hold. I asked the gentleman for my ‘Hold’ items, then joined the long line up. Very, very long line up. People inched forward. Slowly. I waited, patiently, quietly.

A woman up ahead, with a table set up, and prizes to give away, caught my eye. She smiled. I recognized her, and waved.

When I was near enough to her, we chatted. Chatting makes time move faster and the line seems to move less slowly. We talked about stuff like shopping, and work.

Speaking of work, I started a part-time job a while ago–just over a month now, actually–so I told her about that. I am a server, at the Drayton Chop House, a few nights a week. It’s a lot of fun, I said. The best is when it’s busy, and we’re run off our feet.

I have fun with it, I told her, and it helps customers relax.  And when customers like you, and they tip well, it makes you feel good, like you really earned your wage. Even when you make mistakes, if you own it, and take it in stride, it doesn’t make them upset, or when you say things and stick your foot in your mouth, and you laugh at yourself, they like it. Live entertainment, why not? Then the tips get even better, I told her playfully.

She leaned in close then, and whispered something, with a giggle. I missed what she said and asked her to repeat it.

“Do you have a good push up bra?” she whispered a bit louder. I could feel my eyebrows furrow, not connecting the dots. I stared blankly at her for a moment. She giggled again, and continued, out loud this time, “You’ll make better tips.”

“I’m not stooping to that!” I said, then continued, enthusiastically, “I’m happy with my tips!!”

A woman, presumably in her sixties, stopped shopping to stare at me, as if I had said something terrible, and it was at that moment I realized…

“I didn’t say that,” I said out loud. “And I’m still not stooping to doing things for tips,” I added. “That’s messed up.”

“It’s the way it is,” she said.

The line moved past the stand. I had filled out my ballot, dropped it in. But my mind was on our conversation, and the little tip on tips she had given.

I understand that we are sexual creatures. I understand that men are visual, at least that is how we’ve stereotyped them, and women are curvy and appealing. And, yes, I even believe in dressing to compliment the body God gave me. (A body that has changed noticeably over the years…)

But to use my body, to try to get better money…  I find every part of that offensive and degrading.

Why would I want to prostitute myself that way?

When I go out for dinner, if a server–male or female–is polite, kind and helpful, even if he or she makes mistakes, I tip generously. I know what it is like to make mistakes. We’re all human. And as long as the server takes responsibility–say for the lipstick on the glass, when I am not wearing any, or any such thing–it doesn’t influence my generosity. But neither does their gender, their age, or their looks. Not in any way.

I want to be treated with respect, and that is the respect I try to give. And that is my rant about that…

Our world is over-sexualized, and I’m committed to not playing the game. Feminine beauty is a thing of the heart, not the body. We are sexual creatures, but we don’t need to let ourselves be sexualized by culture and society, or become sexualized within our own minds.

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I am more ‘matronly’ today than I was 45 pounds ago, before I gave birth to five children and survived a massive heart attack. But my heart has become more beautiful as the Spirit of God has healed, defined and delivered me.

Not long ago, Tim and I stood in the kitchen, and it struck me how much we’ve both changed, physically. I put my arms around him, giggled and said, “Isn’t it great to be middle-aged, chubby, and in love?”

And, yes, almost twenty years into marriage, we are crazier about each other than we were back when our bodies seemed near perfect, in size and in function. Now, here we are, with creaky knees, and various other malfunctions, in a deeply committed love relationship, enjoying our marriage more than ever, in every way. There’s more to life than this body…

Today I celebrate the beauty of femininity–curves and rolls and all, with or without push up bras–and thank God for our purpose and design; made in His image, to reflect His heart to the world.

Embrace who you are–the woman God created you to be–and celebrate the unique wonder of you, fearfully and wonderfully created.

Happy Mother’s Day!

© Trudy Metzger

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