The migraine finally broke, so it's time for a little bit of rambling. I probably won't get a lot done--I'd still like some sleep.
I haven't taught Sunday school in about eight weeks due to the impact of my sinus issues and recovery from surgery. The class has been very gracious and covered for me. I am getting back into the swing of things now. We started discussing The Shack this week. I am having to get used to timing my own contributions again... My mind tends to race 90 miles a minute, and this is very much a group of laid-back thinkers who take their time in putting their thoughts in words. (I can learn a lot from them.)
Someone asked me about my image of God, whether I thought of God as male and white. This is an intriguing question for me. (I'd be curious to hear from some of you now that I'm talking about mine.) When I was growing up, I experienced audible voices when I had my own thoughts and also when I prayed and heard from God. The voice of God to me was always female until a certain point in my life. In fact, it bore certain qualities that were similar but not identical to my mother's voice. At some point, it lost its female characteristic, and I would call it a nondescript voice now. That was the point at which I let go of my overdependence as an adult on my mother's authority and began to allow myself to make decisions based on my own values instead of my past.
In spite of this feminine vocal quality, it never occurred to me to call "God" anything but Father. It was like being blind and saying, "See you tomorrow." When I meet a person tomorrow, I don't see anything but their height and general body size. On a good day, I might see the color of their shirt. But these aren't the things that matter when we meet. When I say, "See you tomorrow," I mean, "Interact with you tomorrow." "See you tomorrow" is just the thing to say, and it would feel very uncomfortable for me to say anything else. It feels uncomfortable for me to say that I heard a movie evne though I'm very aware that other people watch the screen and I listen to the dialogue. I need the dignity of being a part of the society that watches movies; so I allow myself the freedom to "watch movies" with my ears. And in the same way, my "Father God" had a female voice. "Father God" was the language of the church; and i never gave it a second thought. God, in reality, is gender neuter; but "Father God" originated in a culture where father was the symbol of the authority that "Father God" represents.
There are movements in theology to do away with this father imagery. Some people feel wounded by it. Some feel it is associated too much with patriarchy. I am personally hesitant to do away with it until I know what I'm replacing it with and what the implications of that replacement are. Language is very powerful. I pointed out in class that growing up, my dad was my "pastor," but my mother was most often my guide morally and my disciplinarian. When I look at biblical images of Father God, part of what I note is the role of disciplinarian in addition to that of creator and establisher. Having experienced the positive aspect of discipline, I don't see any of this as negative.
My thoughts here are running in two streams. One is about the fact that I separated the use of terminology from what I experienced physically at obviously a very young age. I heard this feminine voice, but if anyone had suggested to me that God was male or female I would have called them silly and said that God is God. In the same way, I have always used visual language, and I have always gotten irritable when people corrected me. From the time I was a little girl, if someone tried to use the term, "listen to TV," I would say very adamantly, "I watch TV just like you!" Of course, I always knew better.It is the sighted person, not me, who is uncomfortable with this language that seems to not fit the situation. At the same time, I'm aware that some blind people take exception to the use of lbindness as metaphor. I don't. If I can watch TV, I can be spiritually blind or otherwise blind--and I can have my eyes opened, too! I don't have a problem singing "Was blind but now I see" in "Amazing Grace."
My other thought stream is about the Trinity and the language we use... I told someone the other day that I am very comfortable with the traditional language. It isn't just because I grew up with it, though that certainly helps. It's because of what it conveys to me and the importance I place on living in community with the past as well as the present. There are other terms with which I am also comfortable, but I am very selective about these. At the time of that conversation, I of course had no idea that we would talk about any of this in class.
I have a lot more writing to do about this, and I'm getting tired. I'm afraid I'm going to have to leave this one on a cliffhanger.