Why God is a S/He
Maybe you’ve noticed that recently God’s been asking me to “come out” more truthfully about my faith: no longer giving me the option to hide and disguise myself, but asking me to boldly speak and write about it more honestly than ever before. This has meant major changes in where I feel comfortable teaching yoga prayer, who I pray with, and how I define myself spiritually. And the truth is that this Erin is the Erin I’ve always been, hiding quietly underneath the layers of fear that are rapidly falling away, whether I like it or not.
Over the last year, I’ve started to sneakily call God a S/he, hoping you won’t notice all that much, unfollow me, stop coming to class, or hang me as a witch. ;)
Last year, after witnessing firsthand the dis-ease of sexual abuse within the church I was raised, I began leaning on spiritual teachers like Anne Lamott, Rebecca Campbell, Glennon Doyle Melton and Rev. Sheila Graves. I’ve watched as they practice radical authenticity about themselves and their faith, witnessing how their bold, albeit counter-cultural, perspectives of God are changing the world. I know deeply that, just like them, God made me this way for a reason even if it doesn't neatly fit into any particular religious box. And, Jesus, it's liberating to be honest about myself (although, to my inner unhealed teenager who prefers popularity and acceptance over radical ANYTHING, it’s shame-inducing as hell).
But with a burgeoning womb and my favorite mystical season upon us, all I can see and feel is the Feminine Face of God and thought it was high time to start honestly explaining why.
As many of you know, I spent my first 20-some years of life at war with my body: an audio-tape of self-hatred and disgust running through my head and plunging me into endless, depressive patterns of yo-yo dieting, obsessive exercising, binge / purge patterns, and beyond. I walked through life half-alive, held in a mental prison of my own creation, rarely getting a break, save for some fleeting moments in nature or kneeling in church.
It was on the yoga mat in my late twenties, though, that I began to see my Body for what She really was: my divine home, my compass, my partner, my teacher who was lovingly carrying me through this lifetime, intelligently beating my heart, fighting bacteria, breathing my breath, keeping me alive.
In both the movement and the stillness, I found out so much about her -- like, She’s pretty freaking strong and intelligent and capable and amazing. And not because I made her to be -- but because that’s how She was “knit in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 137).
After years of verbally abusing Her, she was still here, keeping me alive, giving me Life, a little sad about my abuse, sure, but not impacted enough to stop working in my favor.
As I began to see Her for the amazing Being that She was, I began to feel that God was not only around Her but within Her -- that She was a divine specimen, “no less than the trees and the stars" (Ehrmann). Without her, I was just a mind floating around aimlessly, but with her I was a Spirit experiencing Earth (sunsets, chocolate bars, hot baths, a good cry, a late-night snuggle, a best friend) in all of her glory.
Ancient spiritual traditions have always honored the Goddess, the Earth, the Mother as this “down-here” primordial intelligence of the God-Light running through our veins. Native Americans, yogis, and the original Christian Mystics like St. Francis and Claire, taught about embodied spirituality, focusing more on the Divine-light in all things than the angry God in the sky. Even the Bible has a name for this presence, the Holy or Indwelling Spirit, naming her as Woman -- Sophia; however, in a world dominated by male leadership, She has gotten lost along the way.
As I continue to deepen my studies and meditation, I can no longer deny that God appears as both a He and a She (and, of course, sometimes genderless). That sometimes God gently cooes and coddles me, offering unconditional love and nurturing the same way that my own blessed mother once did. And yet, sometimes God feels like my Father, guiding and directing and organizing things from the sky. And what I’ve realized is that I need both a Mom and a Dad, both a gentle, patient, intuitive Mama and a bold, brave, “we’ve got this” Papa in order to be my best Self.
This new way of thinking, along with a steady devotional practice, has allowed me to see my Self in a whole new way: God not just a far away presence, but the still, small voice within me, every human, tree, and molecule.
If we are to study the Christmas story from a mystical perspective, then, Mary brings God down from the pedestal and into her womb: she shows us that, as my beloved Teresa of Avila says, God has no hands but our hands, no voice but our voice, no eyes but our eyes. That it’s THROUGH ME that God intends to bring Light into the world: using my unique gifts, my unique voice, my unique perspective and body and life-force, to do something important here.
And knowing that changes everything. When I am kind to the elderly stranger in line at Target, I am birthing the Christ-Light. When I patiently help my daughter digest a bad day, I am birthing the Christ-Light. When I cook a healthy meal for my family, I am birthing the Christ-Light. When I teach from my heart, I am birthing the Christ-Light.
Suddenly, everything I do has meaning, importance -- suddenly, I am no accident. My body goes from enemy to temple: the place where God intends to deliver Her Divine Plan for the world. All feelings of depression and isolation melt away and I am healed of the selfish, narcissistic behaviors that have become our way of life as Americans.
So there it is. This is why yoga and prayer have become my altar, my healing space: with each breath and movement, I awaken the Inner Light, finding it first in myself, then in my husband, my children, and every damn human I meet, even and especially, my “enemy.” And this is what Jesus’s essential teachings have always been about.
Wherever you find yourself on your Spiritual Path this holiday, I encourage you to play with the idea that you are not an accident: that nothing about you is -- that it’s “through you that the Whole intends to do something,” giving birth to something that only you can deliver (Ohso). For when we begin to believe this completely, it is then that we will change the world.
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Yoga Teacher and Student, Speaker, Writer, Mother, Wife, Friend, Daughter, Sister, Human