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Dave Brisbin

Both Sides Now

It’s heartbreaking that many women in the second halves of their lives would be expressing remorse, but after dedicating their first halves to child and home, they find no concrete way to calculate the value of their life’s work. No degrees or trophies, certainly no pensions or even social security payouts.

Our society doesn’t reward the most important contributions we make to our children and each other, those made from the traditionally feminine traits of acceptance, compassion, vulnerability. We’re all over the traditionally masculine ones—performance, accomplishment, acquisition—and though our churches may praise vulnerability and acceptance, they still reward the performers, male or female. All institutions do. Performers make the material world go round.

Church is where we should be balancing the material and spiritual, masculine and feminine…especially when it comes to our notion of God. Yet God is almost exclusively portrayed as Father, with the implication of maleness, emphasis on roles of judge, jury, executioner. Though God is called Father in Judeo-Christian scripture, there is much more going on under the hood. Spirit and kingdom are feminine words in Hebrew, making spirit, “she” and kingdom, queendom. Wisdom is personified as female, and God anthropomorphized as a loving mother over and over. Jews understood God as the perfect balance, the perfect parent—knowledge balanced with wisdom, accomplishment with relationship. Jesus did too, calling Father God abba, underscoring intimate relationship, and always leading with mother before father at every human encounter.

We can only be healthy and balanced in Jesus’ order: mother before father, compassion before justice, acceptance before performance. Our minds are the repository for all the loss and fear that makes us believe we’re not worthy, so as long as God remains in our minds alone, he remains “he”—a distant father. Experiencing God as mother folds her into our embrace.

Until we experience God from both sides, we are loved and lost at the same time—never knowing how we’re loved and never valuing what hasn’t earned degree or pension.


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