Much of the writing that I have read that speaks to a more “balanced” vision of God falls into the familiar trap of reference to characteristics, masculine and feminine. The accusation goes something like this: Christendom has historically majored on the masculine aspects of God (father, disciplinarian, powerful, cerebral) as if to say that expressing these characteristics is only possible if one were male. Richard Rohr has wonderfully addressed a key issue that has plagued the expression of Christianity for most of its history, but he speaks of it as having missed out on half the gospel, half the knowledge of God, etc. And, on it goes. For the “western” mind, reasoning is, well, reasoned—there are clear categories and either/or dichotomies. But to classify as such only highlights the problem. To assert that powerful is relegated to the masculine category is to say a woman is flawed if she displays power in her communication with others (over others). When a man cries easily, we say he is channeling his “femininity” and regard him as lacking something of his manhood. But, are these not merely characteristics of people who wield power over another (masculine) and submit to the one (feminine)? Are they not messages that have been given to one gender over the other from birth due to the curse from the fall (you shall work the land and it will be very hard, have pain in childbirth, hunger still for your husband, etc.)? Do they not merely expose the imbalance of power, inequalities among peoples, the exploitation of recovery time from childbirth?
I do appreciate that Richard Rohr quotes from Galatians 3:38, that “in Christ there is neither male nor female”—no distinction between genders. It is not: both feminine and masculine are equally valid and necessary to understand God and each other. Rather, there is no distinction. Nada. Julian of Norwich, whom he also blessedly quotes, gets much closer by expressing who Jesus is to us by using “feminine” language, yet in a different manner: “Jesus is our true Mother in whom we are endlessly carried and out of whom we will never come.” By calling Jesus, Mother, she is merely referring to the only function women might do that men cannot—give birth. There is no reference to emotion or leadership style or communication technique. When we begin to see one another without attaching a value on a scale of masculine to feminine, will we be free to recognize the other as who that person is—truly, at the core. Only then, may we assist one another to the freedom to be that person without the nagging question of “will someone think I am too weak because I cry easily?” or “will I come across as too aggressive if I step in and lead where I have the expertise and experience to do so?” And, how much more will love be available when we are free from jealousy or disdain or insecurity or arrogance? When we see the other for who that person is—except that to do so one must first see the self, as is. Ah, and that is the crux of the matter. Time in solitude and silence with the One who made us as we are. Time with the Person that birthed us into being and breathed life into us to sustain and strengthen and give courage to be. just. that. Me. Nicole Suzanne Oliver Snyder. I am a leader, and I can cry; I have given birth (3 times!), and I am much stronger than I look. But, I am also insecure and arrogant, and absolutely must retreat still more and more to the center, my interior castle where Christ dwells in me—the true me. Christ, my true Mother in whom I am endlessly carried and out of whom I will never come, dwells in me. It’s mystery!