What would change for you if God were not only a good, good Father, but also a good, good Mother?
Before I lose you: would it surprise you to know that the Holy Spirit is described in scripture as a feminine presence? In the languages Jesus used (Hebrew and Aramaic), Rúach (spirit) and Rúach Hakodesh (spirit-the-holy) are feminine nouns.
My idea of God began to change on the heels of my nervous breakdown. My counselor advised me to begin meditation to help calm my mind and control my breathing. It was essential for me to calm my nervous system down to prevent more panic attacks. So every morning, I would wake up and sit in silence on my deck. This truly was the first time in my life I had sat consistently in stillness. I did not ask for anything. I simply quieted my mind. When my mind was quiet enough, I finally began experiencing the overwhelming, penetrating presence of God. Be still and know. I knew, for the first time, that I had met my Heavenly Mother.
In the very beginning of Genesis, we find God introduced in both masculine and feminine language:
1 In the beginning God (Elohim [masculine]) created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God (Rúach Hakodesh [feminine]) was moving over the face of the waters…
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…
3:22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”Genesis 1:1-2; 26; 3:22
In the first two verses of the Bible, God is revealed as both a masculine and feminine essence. “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Who is “us”? Who is “our”? This language seems to point to a God who exists in multiple persons (commonly referred to as Trinity). Then God says that both males and females are made in the image of this complex being. God does not have a gender (or, more accurately, , we can logically conclude that both males and female possess both masculine and feminine essence. God is the plurality of oneness, the masculine and feminine combined, the two become one).
If you think about it, you probably know this intuitively. We all know men who embody feminine qualities such as sound intuition, love, compassion, creation, nurturing. We also know women who embody masculine qualities such as decisiveness, discernment, structure, vision, protection.
On the other side of the coin, we all know both men and women who are wounded and carry unhealthy masculine and feminine energy. The wounded masculine in a person looks like: dominating, controlling, overachieving, manipulative, aggressive, emotionally closed off. The wounded feminine in a person looks like people pleasing, validation seeking, desperation, fear of abandonment, shame, and struggling to say “no” and hold boundaries.
Origen is a Church Father and is widely regarded as one of the most important Christian theologians of all time. Read his words on the Holy Spirit:
If anyone should lend credence to the Gospel according to the Hebrews, where the Saviour Himself says, ‘My Mother (mētēr), the Holy Spirit, took me just now by one of my hairs and carried me off to the great Mount Tabor’, he will have to face the difficulty of explaining how the Holy Spirit can be the Mother (mētēr) of Christ when She was herself brought into existence through the Word. But neither the passage nor this difficulty is hard to explain. For if he who does the will of the Father in heaven [Mt. 12:50] is Christ’s brother and sister and mother (mētēr), and if the name of brother of Christ may be applied, not only to the race of men, but to beings of diviner rank than they, then there is nothing absurd in the Holy Spirit’s being His Mother (mētēr); everyone being His mother who does the will of the Father in heaven.Origen, Commentary on the Gospel of John
So, what happened that we are just now re-discovering the femininity of the Holy Spirit? Before the Hebrew Bible texts came to Rome, the feminine word Rúach was replaced with Pneuma, a Greek noun which carries no gender. Then, in the first Latin Bible (Vulgate, c. 384 CE), the Roman Catholic Church replaced Pneuma with the masculine Spiritus.
However, read what Jerome–who translated the first Latin Bible–writes regarding the Holy Spirit:
And also this: (in the text) ‘like the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress’ [Ps. 123:2], the maid is the soul and the mistress (dominam) is the Holy Spirit. For also in that Gospel written according to the Hebrews, which the Nazaraeans read, the Lord says: ’Just now, my Mother (mater), the Holy Spirit, took me.’ Nobody should be offended by this, for among the Hebrews the Spirit is said to be of the feminine gender (genere feminino), although in our language it is called to be of masculine gender and in the Greek language neuter.Jerome, Commentary on Isaiah
Early Christian authors also speak of the maternal nature of God. Julian of Norwich, a medieval English mystic, describes God as both Father and Mother: “God rejoices that he is our Father, and God rejoices that he is our Mother.” Anselm of Canterbury depicts Christ as a mother in a devotional prayer. For Anselm, Christ is “the great mother” who brought forth sons through his death and who comforts the frightened with his gentleness.
Every body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19); therefore, every person’s spirit has a masculine and feminine essence. This loving, maternal presence is often more naturally embodied in women. (Let me be clear: I’m not gender stereotyping here. Both men and women can be maternal and nurturing. I’m pointing out that men have more commonly been conditioned to repress emotions and their feminine energy.) So, when the church tells women that they can’t preach, can’t hold leadership positions, etc., the church blasphemies against the Holy Spirit. When you resist the feminine nature, you resist love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
To be frank, myself and so many others are tired of men telling women to “go home” in one way or another. Let’s be clear: when you tell women to “go home”, you tell the Holy Spirit to go home. I do not blame any individual man for this misogyny within the church. We are all victims of patriarchy. 350 years after Christ in ancient Rome, the Greek and Hebrew pronouns that denote “spirit” abruptly changed to masculine gender. We must awaken to the fact that men in power have been the ones to dictate the terms by which we relate to God. Since then, it has been an almost exclusively Father-Son relationship from a human point of view…and a punitive one at that. And we all must repent of the oppression perpetuated by this toxic view of God–one in which we’ve severed our Perfect Mother from the equation.
Put your spiritual thinking caps on for a moment and re-read this commandment:
“Honor your [spiritual] Father and [spiritual] Mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the LORD your God is giving you.Exodus 20:12
Suddenly, this makes so much more sense. We can all think of scenarios where a child obeying their father and mother did not leave to a long, full life. But honoring my spiritual Father and Mother God who reside within me, closer than my own soul–I know that can believe that promise.
Here are a few more examples of God portrayed as a mother in the Bible:
Hosea 13:8 God described as a mother bear
“Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them and tear them asunder…”
Deuteronomy 32:11-12 God described as a mother eagle
“As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings; So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.”
Deuteronomy 32:18 God who gives birth
“You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.”
Isaiah 66:13 God as a comforting mother
God: “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”
Isaiah 49:15 God compared to a nursing mother
God: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”
Isaiah 42:14 God as a woman in labor
God: “For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept myself still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labor, I will gasp and pant.”
Psalm 131:2 God as a Mother
“But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.”
Psalm 123:2-3 God compared to a woman
“As the eyes of a servant looks to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to you, YHWH, until you show us your mercy!”
Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34 God as a Mother Hen
Jesus: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
Luke 15:8-10 God as woman looking for her lost coin
Jesus: “Or what woman having ten silver coins, is she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Jesus Christ called the Holy Spirit “Spirit of Truth” (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13) and warned us, “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven unto men” (Matthew 12:31).
“Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” is conscious and hardened opposition to the truth, “because the Spirit is truth” (1 John 5:6). Conscious and hardened resistance to the truth leads man away from humility and repentance, and without repentance there can be no forgiveness. That is why the sin of blasphemy against the Spirit cannot be forgiven, since one who does not acknowledge his sin does not seek to have it forgiven.Serafim Alexivich Slobodskoy, The Eighth Article of the Creed
An opposition to the voice of healthy, Spirit-filled women or any persons in the church is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit–the Mother Spirit. I invite you to discover God as your Good, Loving, Nurturing, Comforting, Defending Mother.
We are no longer under the temple system of worship…a system where we look to the religious elite to tell us who can get close to “holy” places (i.e. the pulpit, the stage, the leadership teams, the volunteer roles). You body is the temple and you don’t need to wait for permission from pious men to speak your truth in love. You do, however, have permission to leave any place of worship that discriminates against women, LGBTQ+ persons, or anyone else embodying the loving presence of the Holy Spirit and the image of God. Honor your Mother who dwells inside you.
Jesus shows us what it looks like to embody both masculine and feminine essence in a human body. Perhaps, that is precisely why God chose to be revealed in a male body: to show humanity (especially men) what it looks like to embody feminine essence in a male body. It seems men who claim to follow Jesus, yet perpetuate oppression and discrimination against anyone, have missed the point completely. To the John McArthurs out there: to you, I do not say, “Go Home.” To you, I say “Come to the Table. Your Mother is waiting and welcomes you exactly as you are. Change your mind (repent) and let yourself be loved by your Heavenly Mother.”