I woke up this morning, looked in the mirror, and I saw an image of God looking back at me. No, there was not an old white man peering over my shoulder as I brushed my teeth. I’m talking about my own reflection! God is a woman! And while I believe this to be true, I should qualify that by saying, God is also a man, not gendered, and so much more than our concepts of gender can possibly dare to describe.
Gender matters. If I look in the mirror and can see an image of God in myself, that is a beautiful thing. It also matters that I can look at you and see an image of God in you. The way we talk about God affects the way we imagine her, and the way we imagine God affects the way we relate to her. Obviously, no image can fully portray who God is. So, the more images we have for God, the better! Our language about God matters because it affects our relationships with God, and by extension, our relationships with each other.
I don’t think God is going to be offended by improper use of pronouns, but I do think that by using exclusive pronouns for a Being that far transcends them we develop an inaccurate understanding of who God is. Since we can’t possibly express or comprehend God, we should do the best we can with what our language allows. Pronouns and images do affect our relationships. Gendered language helps us to encounter God as a relational being, not a concept or abstraction. Images like Mother and Father allow me to relate to God in ways I otherwise could not. Gender makes God more accessible to us as humans, and inclusive use of pronouns and images move us closer to the fullest understanding of God we can hope for (gender-wise).
I have recently begun to use feminine language for God. I do this not to try and cast God as exclusively feminine, but because this is what I find most meaningful at this point in time. Feminine pronouns and images help me to relate to God in new and meaningful ways. Besides, there is enough masculine language for God already that it seems the least I can do to try for some kind of balance.
Audrey Engle is a junior Sociology and Spanish double major.