Encouragement for the journey.
Greetings fellow travellers!
As we prepare for mother’s day next week I’ve been reflecting on a description I read of stained glass window depicting the Holy Trinity. It consisted in a triangle with each member represented by their title – Father, Son, Spirit. In the centre of the triangle are the words God is, with lines extending to each of the points. On the lines joining each point are the words ‘is not’. God is Father, Son, Spirit, and the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, the Spirit not the Father. The window attempts to clearly set out a theological doctrine that has been argued over for centuries in terms of the nature of the relationships within the Godhead. These aspects of nature and relationship have been challenged on almost all counts at some point in church history. But it is only recently that there has been any real challenge to the title of God as Father. Could it be acceptable to use another familiar (in the sense of family) noun for God?
I think a good part of our reluctance to think that any other title for God is acceptable is that Jesus refers to God as Father so many times. If we were looking for reasons why we could not challenge this title, Jesus’ endorsement would be a solid one.
But many, many of us sadly grow up with a thin bond to our fathers. Our culture makes it so hard for men to grow deep, warm, affectionate and reciprocal relationships with others. We tell our boys not to cry and to man up, we expect them to be strong and we make them fear vulnerability and failure.
And if our model for fatherhood is so wounded, how are we going to approach a God we are taught to name as Father if not with shades of the same fears, the same resentments, the same expectations that we learned in our homes? I’m not suggesting that our models of motherhood are less wounded.
But I am suggesting that if we are to use a parental title as our basic image of God, we will have a fuller sense of the nature of that relationship if we are open to using both parental models. All of our words fall short of the fullness of God’s reality, and all of our images can only convey part of the truth. What new aspect of how God wants to relate to us might we discover if we changed the name we use and the image we hold as we reflect on our relationship? We are invited by our joyous, passionate, self-giving God into a relationship of mutuality, reciprocity and delight where God does not overwhelm us but gives us a true sense of the ‘is’ and ‘is not’ of our being in relationship. Perhaps some of what that means is more readily perceived in and received from the mother heart of God?