She is Just Like Me

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She is just like me, I heard myself say as I was describing my almost 2-year old daughter to a table full of male colleagues. She’s sassy and bossy and very opinionated. She runs the house. She tells her two older brothers what to do and I feel sure they will live their lives looking for her approval. She is also tender and nurturing. When my two boys (ages 6 and 4) have spent the last hour mimicking MMA fighters on the trampoline and the 4-year old comes in with a bloody nose because his older brother did a jack-hammer  on his face, she goes straight to him with deep concern on her little face and she gently kisses his cheeks and his hands. She tries desperately to stretch her tiny arms wide enough to embrace him, though he is three times her size. She loves people. She wants to take care of people. I went on describing the scene that I witness every morning to my table full of colleagues. The one where she comes in my bathroom and pulls open the drawers that contain my jewelry. There she stands and ponders the treasures before her for minutes on end, fingering every bead and mulling over each detailed strand of pearls. She carefully selects her earrings and necklace and bracelets. I have to explain to her every morning that she can’t wear mommy’s earrings, she doesn’t have her ears pierced yet.  My table crowd laughs jovially in response to my story and they begin to comment on the vast differences between boys and girls. There is just something innately different about those little girls, they say. It’s like they were made to be mamas. They are so “girly.” But I wonder if it is more than this. If you were to go to an orphanage or a group home in a third world country where little girls have been abused or neglected you don’t observe this kind of behavior. They don’t care for those around them with great compassion and empathy. They don’t naturally boss or sass their friends. And they don’t know to try on their mama’s jewelry set before them. These are not innately female qualities. It is my assessment rather, that this behavior is not so much natural as it is learned.

My daughter is not naturally “maternal” or naturally “girly.” She is mimicking the behavior of the parent that she sees herself in. That is me. She knows, even at her young pre-verbal age, that one of these humans giving me care and love is like me and one of them is not. She is identifying with me as a woman and dis-identifying with her dad as male. This is healthy and normal gender identification for her developmental stage.  She sees me and not her dad as the one she is to mimic. She sees me and she believes that this is who she is meant to be. She kisses the cheeks of her hurting brothers because she sees me do this. She bosses and sasses everyone because this is how I behave. She carefully selects her jewelry because she watches me get ready every day.

And this reality of my daughter mimicking me invites me to reflect on the Divine Feminine. The genesis account tells us that God created both male and female in the image of God. The fact that both male and female were created in the image of God means that when women look at God they should see their own unique female form. The Divine Feminine.[1]

In the evangelical church in the conservative South, there is a disconnect here. I don’t think most women see themselves in God. This could be for a variety of reasons but one is that we have been continually offered an image of God that doesn’t look anything like us. Our representations of God in the church, in art and music and stories are almost entirely male. Our church elder boards and ministry staffs and leadership teams who are making all the decisions are almost entirely male. Our religious leaders at nearly every level who represent God to the world are almost entirely male. And not just male. But white and old and male. As I look at this male image of God that I have been given I don’t see anything about myself. “He” doesn’t look like me, talk like me, or behave anything like me. “He” is something other than me. I don’t identify with this God.[2] And as a child who does not identify with the parent of the same gender as themselves will face developmental challenges, the same is true for Christian women who do not learn to identify themselves with the Divine.  They will face spiritual developmental challenges.

So I am inviting us, as Christians and as church leaders, to embrace the Divine Feminine. I am inviting us to look at God and see both man and woman. I am inviting us to look at God and see both mother and father. I am inviting us to look at God and to see both the lion and the lamb. I am inviting us to see God in our own reflection so that we begin to mimic and identify with this Divine Mystery of God. I am certain that this is essential for our own formation and for the formation of our churches.

Just like when my daughter looks at me, she can see herself, being created in the image of God invites me to look at God and see myself, one who is uniquely female.

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. …

[1] I am not defining “feminine” image in any particular way. I acknowledge that my experience with my daughter is not a universally female experience. Being female is entirely diverse based on one’s culture, geography, age, etc. Being female certainly does not mean we that all like to wear jewelry or we are all nurturing. I am simply reflecting on my own specific examples as a resource for theological reflection. I am  not saying that these characteristics are explicitly female. Instead my argument is that all females should see their own reflection in the Divine Feminine of God.

[2] My experience of God is as a Woman and a Mother. I am not reflecting on this here.

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