Sometimes I want to Call God Mother – What We Call God Matters

Christ as King

Christ - king or friend & companion?

Sometimes I want to call God Mother, Father, friend, companion, lover of my soul. At other times I want to call God creator, saviour, Lord of the Universe, bringer of justice, rescuer of the poor. I thought about this a lot this morning after receiving a message from a friend who reads my facebook prayers.

I’ve really enjoyed your prayers, Christine. However in recent months I’m noticing more and more that Jesus isn’t mentioned by name…. Somehow God and Christ, accurate names, aren’t as intimate and personal too me as the name “Jesus”… Am I just a hopeless Evangelical?

Her words were very perceptive but caught me off guard inviting me to think about what I call God and why. Have I drifted away from a sense of personal intimacy with God or is there more to this change?

What we call God matters. All the names I listed above are legitimate and important names for God, but they produce very different images in our minds. The first list all bring a sense of intimacy with them. They draw us into a close and personal relationship to God. They invite us to call God Abba, the Christ Jesus and the Spirit Comforter. The encourage us to grow the love of God deep within our hearts.

However, these names can also have negative connotations. For some calling God father creates images of hierarchical and patriarchal structures in which men rule over women and the elite rule over the poor and the marginalized.  And the use of mother for some, creates images of amazonian feminists who are trying to destroy the family and our faith in God.

The second list at least for me are those that inspire me to action. They encourage me to embrace God’s ways of justice and mercy and encourage me to place God’s dream of a world made new at the centre of all I am and do.  However  they often create more distant images in our minds, images of a lordly figure who sits on a throne far above our world distributing justice sometimes with an arbitrary and vengeful hand.

My prayers in the last few months have tended to reflect this more activist view of God. The economic volatility of our world and the growing numbers of people I know who are sinking into poverty, the crashing waves of natural disasters that are rending the lives of so many I care about, and the ongoing challenges of poverty, oppression and disease tear at my heart and I want to respond and encourage others to respond.

At the same time I want to grow in intimacy with God. Perhaps like my friend who commented this morning I am at heart a hopeless evangelical. I think that our personal relationship with God is crucially important. Without the knowledge that God resides in the very personal and individual place of my heart it would be impossible for me to respond to the needs I see around me. I realize too that my language needs to reflect that.

Part of what my friend’s comment this morning made me realize is that I need to broaden the range of names I use for God. Yes I need to regularly use names that draw me into intimacy, that is essential for me to grow into the love of God.  But these need to be balanced with names that inspire me to respond and to act as God’s representative to our desperately needy world.

So my question for you this morning is: What do you most frequently call God and how does that reflect your view of God?


12 Responses

  1. Thanks so much for your post Christine. These are things I have also pondered from time-to-time. I do think that what we call God is more for us than it is for God. I think God hears us no matter what name we choose . . . if we are moved or compelled to use one or more. It’s not that I don’t think it matters, I simply think it has more to do with how we think of God when we pray, reflect, or meditate.

    I am very interested in and hope that others will share their thoughts and perspectives as well.

  2. Many names come to mind when thinking about God: Father, Comforter, Healer, Provider…and the list goes on. I think at times we gravitate to the Name which meets the need of our lives most at the time.
    God Bless,

  3. Thanks for these responses as well as to those who have responded on facebook and twitter. Obviously this is both an important and a somewhat controversial topic. And I agree that what is really important is how we think of God when we pray I suppose my concern is that how we imagine God when we pray is unconsciously shaped by the words that we use.

  4. I call him God, and whenver we see a crucifix, I tell my boys, ‘Look, a cross for Jesus’. Whenver I talk about God to my 5 year old I usually say ‘God-and-Jesus’, I want to talk about the Holy Trinity, and have explained it to him, played a song for him about it etc, but it’s confusing to him at the mo. I’ve just tried to think about God as ‘Mother’, but it just doesn’t work for me to call him female. I usually feel God is patiently there, chiding me or telling me to keep my chin up. I was brought up strict Catholic and the Old Testament tells of an angry God, so he is quite stern to me, but fair, and this is what I put my trust in for justice at the end of time. But let’s not forget about forgiveness, I feel he is quite cross about the lack of forgiveness at times..

  5. Excellent post. When we examine the way that we talk about God/Jesus, we can see how we internalize the relationship and live out of that reality. The influence of life will color those titles and impact how we respond in faith. This is an issue that we deal with in our church frequently (God as father, when so many have negative connotations).

    Would you be interested in re-posting on our blogsite for diverse Christian expression? Or, explore more specifically the significance of God as mother?

  6. Please feel free to repost this. At present I do not have time to write another article but may consider if for the future

  7. Dear Sister,
    FYI: St. Julian of Norwich called our God Mother.

  8. Thanks for the reminder – and good to remember at this season of All Saints

  9. […] piece was originally published at her personal blog, Godspace along with her bio. Share this:TwitterDiggFacebookEmailPrintLinkedInRedditStumbleUponLike […]

  10. I’m agnostic with a leaning toward liberal Christianity. When I pray, which I do regularly, I pray to “whoever is out there and benevolent and listening.” I hope that if God is out there, those words apply.

  11. […] places of our world and we want to join him. I have written about this previously in the post: Sometimes I want to Call God Mother. Think about it for a few minutes and then listen to this powerful 5 minute sermon by Rev SM […]

  12. […] places of our world and we want to join him. I have written about this previously in the post: Sometimes I want to Call God Mother. Think about it for a few minutes and then listen to this powerful 5 minute sermon by Rev SM […]

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