Blessed is Her Name

“They assigned me a gender and I didn’t have a choice in it,” said the broken and sad teenager, as tears left wide wet stains on the fair young cheeks. “I have always been treated like a girl, expected to act like a girl and forced to dress like a girl. But I am not a girl. In the very core of who I am, I am a boy. And I always have been. I am so tired of letting other people tell me who I am.”

Believe it or not, I am not here to “weigh in” on a transgender debate. I am not here to take a stand on bathroom usage or even what it means for our churches to be “inclusive” in this matter. I will save those thoughts for another time. Instead I am here to connect this conversation–which occurred with a real teenager with real tears on a real couch–to an area of theological inquiry that I have been thinking about a lot: that of gender and God.

God.

I wonder if God can relate in a particular way to the transgender teenager who sits before me this evening.

You see, God has been assigned a gender too. And my hunch is that God may also be tired of conforming to it. [1]

Historically, the Christian community has assigned a male gender to God and in this, we have missed the fullness of who God is.

We resonate and default to images such as:

God is Lord over all the earth.
God is a king who rules the kingdom.
God is a father who runs to greet his son. [2]

And we ignore images such as:

God is a mother bear protecting her young cubs. [3]
God is merciful to the child in her womb. [4]
God is a homemaker looking for a lost coin. [5]

Elizabeth Johnson implores the believing community to employ female images and pronouns for God as a means to move forward in gender equality, justice, and self-understanding. [6]

I would add that using female images for God invites the church to know God for who God truly is. The goal of theological inquiry is to grow deeper in relationship with God. And at its best, this task invites believers to embrace the God who created both male and female in the imago Dei.

Just as we will not be able to know the teenager for who they really are until we meet them on their terms and with their self-definition, so too we will not know God for who God is until we meet God on God’s terms with God’s self-definition.

It is time to stop assigning God a single gender and to allow God to be both, more than, and neither gender all at the same time. It is time to let God be both male and female, both mother and father. It is time to embrace the mystery and pursue a relationship with the God of the universe. For she is most worthy and worthy to be praised.

Blessed is She who spoke and the world became. Blessed is She.
Blessed is She who in the beginning, gave birth.
Blessed is She who says and performs.
Blessed is She who declares and fulfills. …
Blessed is She who lives forever, and exists eternally.
Blessed is She who redeems and saves. Blessed is Her Name. [7]

[1] I am not suggesting that God must transform from male to female, as a transgender person may desire to transform themselves. This is, obviously, where the analogy breaks down. Rather, I am pointing out that perhaps we have “assigned” God a gender that is preventing us from knowing God for who God truly is, in both maleness and femaleness.
[2] I am not suggesting that these images be thrown out, but instead used alongside images of God as female.
[3] Hosea 13:8.
[4] Isaiah 49: 15. The Hebrew word for mercy is rechem, which comes from the root word for uterus.
[5] Luke 15:8-10.
[6] Elizabeth Johnson, “Naming God She: The Theological Implications” (2000). Boardman Lectureship in Christian Ethics. Paper 5.
[7] Kathleen Fischer, Autumn Gospel, page 26. Part of a prayer by Naomi Janowitz and Maggie Wenig, who compose a Sabbath prayer for their community.

 

After a decade spent ministering to students and families in domestic and international contexts, Kelly Edmiston has developed a passion to equip the church for works of ministry. Originally from Abilene, Texas, Kelly is currently the Student and Family Minister at the First Colony Church of Christ in Sugar Land, TX. She will complete a Master of Divinity from Abilene Christian University in May 2017. Her areas of interest are liberation theology, spiritual formation, and practical theology. She enjoys “suburban life” with her husband Ben and two sons. Find her blogging at brophytwinspeak.com.
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Author:  Publish Date: May 30, 2016
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About CHARIS

CHARIS hosts conversations of and about Churches of Christ. The website is intended to support education for Christian life and community through contemporary discussions and historical sources that variously witness to the gifts (“charis”) of God among Churches of Christ, especially their plea for visible unity among Christians through ongoing renewal and restoration of Scriptural beliefs and practices among God’s people.

The CHARIS website is supported by Abilene Christian University (Abilene, TX, USA), the Center for Heritage and Renewal in Spirituality (CHARIS) at ACU. The purpose of CHARIS at ACU is to seek God’s blessings for a healthy relationship between the Christian college/university – its faculty, staff, and students – and the church heritage that gives identity and meaning to such a school. This underlying concern for Christian colleges/universities, and their relationship to the churches, is reflected in the form and content of the CHARIS website.

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