Our Mother Who Art in Heaven

Our Mother Who Art in Heaven
Our Mother Who Art in Heaven by Polly Castor Between Mother and Child (pastel) by Polly Castor

I’m finding I have little affection for the concept of patriarchy. Honestly, lately, God referred to as He makes me cringe.

This is not about man bashing. I love men. It is about millennia of stifling roles for both genders. Male pronouns and their baggage have dominated for so long, I feel it is overdue to compensate on the side of the feminine long enough for things to balance a bit and eventually even out.

When making my New Year’s resolution, I considered making it the year of God as She. I’m doing it anyway, because it feels like an aspect of margin to me, this release from a top down sense, to a more care-taking, encouraging one. This means I’ll need to  constantly translate, but I’m game, since it is so needed. As I take notes during my Bible Lesson study, I’m transferring pronouns or avoiding them entirely.

But more importantly, as I pray the Lord’s Prayer, I’m praying Our Mother which art in heaven. I’m bowled over with what a different feeling this gives me.

I grew up in a rather happy, functional family. However, my dad was definitely the king of the roost, as the breadwinner and professional superstar. My mother was a creative artist, who sidelined her life to be a homemaker and mother to three daughters, of which I’m the youngest. Also in my close family unit were my dad’s widowed mother, and my mother’s only sister, who was single. So it was basically my dad and six women. It was a perfect recipe for patriarchy, unwitting as it was. He had no idea of his privilege, but as the youngest of those six women I sure did, and I chafed against it.

When I pray Our Mother, the feeling is of all she unselfishly did for us, how she was always there for us, how creative she was, how she’d listen to us, or help us with our projects. She’d take our part in any difficulty. She had a strong sense of integrity, fairness, and morality, and would clearly expect us to behave properly, while easily forgiving our mistakes.  She’d make sure we had what we needed. She was a supporter– not afar off and tacit like my dad, who was the big gun brought in at the celebrations and calamities– but a constant there all in between. These more reassuring qualities of fidelity and nurturing presence are so much more helpful for me as I turn to a metaphor for God.

I know not everyone has been blessed with a wonderful mother, so this may not help all of you, but this trade off of one word is working for me powerfully right now. It feels like a fresh lease on life. Maybe give it a try and see what you think?

And let’s also remember the “Our” part at the beginning of that prayer. We’re turning to the ultimate ideal of One Collective Mother that we all share. No human mother is ever all that, not me, or mine, nor even Jesus’. It is the integrated essence of the most perfect mothering combination of qualities that we are turning to.

Let’s all snuggle into the embrace and unconditional love of that, which wants the best for us, yearns for a loving relationship with us, and will do anything to make everything come out just right.

Underneath the Everlasting Arms (acrylic) by Polly Castor
I work to amplify good wherever I find it. I love color, texture, beauty, great ideas, nature, metaphor, deliciousness, genuine spirituality, and exploring new territory. I encourage authenticity, nurture creativity, champion sustainability, promote peace, and hope to foster a new renaissance where we all are free to be our most fulfilled, multifaceted, and terrific selves. Read more here.

9 Comments

  1. Dilys 4 months ago

    Thanks Polly, I’ll give that a go.

    Mary Baker Eddy writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures “ The ideal man corresponds to creation, to intelligence, and to Truth. The ideal woman corresponds to Life and to Love. In divine Science, we have not as much authority for considering God masculine, as we have for considering Him feminine, for Love imparts the clearest idea of Deity,”, page 517.

    My father was brought up by four older sisters as his mother passed on soon after his birth. So he had great respect for females! And he married a very strong woman, my mum, who brought us three daughters up not to accept any limitations! We were and continue to be blessed.

    • Author
      Polly Castor 4 months ago

      No wonder you and your sister are so marvelous! Xx

  2. Sue Krevitt 4 months ago

    Interesting “coincidence,” Polly. Just this last week I asked myself: What …subtle…problem do I feel when reading or hearing, in spiritual passages, the words He, Him, Father, Man, etc. Intellectually, of course I get the why behind the writers’ use of these pronouns in referring to God and Man, but …well… my human dad abandoned us, my former husband abandoned me, and several other men in my life have disappointed me, let me down. So of course there is a subtle negative connotation to all refs as described above. It comforts me to learn that others sometimes struggle with this aspect of our spiritual study. Thank you for so openly sharing this, Polly.

    And dear God, our Father-Mother, thank You for Your patience while I work out my struggles around this!
    Amen.

    • Author
      Polly Castor 4 months ago

      This is more common than you may imagine!!

  3. JOSEPH DAHLET HERRING 4 months ago

    I think that our feelings are a weak basis on which to build the language of corporate prayer. It’s always hard to escape the gravitational tug of self. Though God transcends what we call gender, naming God ” Father ” is more a matter of attention to Jesus’ tradition than it is an assertion of the supremacy of of maleness.

  4. Terese Messman 4 months ago

    Excellent essay. I find myself referring to God as “she” more and more. I got scolded by a woman in a hotel pool last summer for doing that. And a woman in Wallace, Idaho for same. Wonder why some women resist seeing Him as Her too. I’ve had to learn to be strong, and my male friends who express the female qualities of God are successful and effective people. Time to wake up to wholeness for all of us!

  5. Deborah 4 months ago

    Languages develop as societies and cultures evolve. I began to think more broadly about the limitation of our gender pronouns as I noticed the use of them/their. I jumped right to thinking that a special universal pronoun for God or Deity would be appropriate. I don’t have one to recommend. I just thought I would share this idea as a wonderful possibility.

  6. BILL KILGOUR 4 months ago

    Yeah Deborah ! YES, “a special universal pronoun for Deity.
    True, Mrs. Eddy gave us a good batch of synonyms, . . . & yet a warm, embracing pronoun would be worthy the qualities that Polly champions.
    {Note: the high number of times Mrs. Eddy couples the synonym “Principle” with “Love.” . . . perhaps to make it more “Motherly” ! ? ! ]

    Hey, “PIONEERS” lets “hew the oak and cut the rough granite” of tradition, and pro-actively WATCH for that PRONOUN which reflects , celebrates the FATHER and MOTHER INFINITE QUALITIES OF
    DIETY {{{[[[ NOT the ideal pronoun , but possible clues:::–> ‘guide, parent, gaia (as in Gaia Hypothesis {self-regulating universe], etc. ]]]}}}
    Meanwhile, we can affirm that the “OUR FATHER” as clearly seen in CS, is graciously endowed with a full range of androgynous qualities.

  7. Patti 4 months ago

    You are a bold and valuable voice in the body of Christ. The evil one has done much damage to the role of fatherhood, but equally the role of the mother has been diminished. I love how you described your mom. These are truly the attributes of God. In intimacy with God, we experience these realities to the point of inner healing. This is so needed, as you say.
    I, too, have seen the need in the body of Christ for the “Mother Heart of God.” That’s my phrase to help people understand that so much of God has been lost due to our human focus. I’m clear to point out that I’m not saying God is a woman, but I refer to Gen 1:26-27. Paraphrasing, God says, “Let us make mankind in our image, after our likeness and let them have dominion…God created male and female.” So clearly the feminine, mother aspect of God is a component part of the entire heart of God. Male and female equally important and valuable.
    I’m more comfortable not changing scripture but using my phrase, the mother heart of God, to send a red flag. Then I explain. To me, it’s like water, H2O. I wouldn’t say, would you like a glass of oxygen? Along with that understanding, if one over boils water, oxygen is diminished and the fresh taste is ruined. By the same token, breathing pure oxygen for too long can be damaging or deadly. Some however need an increase of oxygen as they heal. I do see your point.
    God is the living water, His Spirit, the breath of life. We see Him clearly in scripture and in His presence, in His wholeness, earthy wounds are healed. He knows how to reveal Himself in the ways we need.
    He came to Abram in Gen 17:1 as Shaddai, the breasted one known to nourish, nurture, feed, make us fruitful. And in verse 5 He said, I have made you a father… . I love that God uses certain natures of Himself to grow us. He used the mother heart of God among other aspects of Himself there to make Abraham a father. Abe had to receive it, believe it and live it.
    So, I hope the mother heart of God in you will consider my perspective. Whether you post this or not, thanks for listening. We’re building the body of Christ in love to the measure of the stature of Christ who represents the wholeness of God. This is the joy set before us. May we all be healed and made whole, Christ in us the hope of Glory.

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