The Loss of a Mothering God: Exploring Noah

Posted on 16 Feb 2019 in Breathe, Reveal | 0 comments

Most of our depictions of God are of the old, white guy with a beard in the sky, prepared for judgment. If we’re lucky, we’ve rediscovered the vibrant, multi-faceted and very non-white God who Fathers us with love and power and compassion. But if we’re honest, the concept of a Mother God disrupts us and makes us desperately uncomfortable. It’s no surprise that when The Shack revealed God as an older, loving black Mother that so many of us rooted in traditional Western Christianity lost our ever-loving minds. But some of us felt the whisper of DEEP MAGIC in that story. The Deeper Magic that reminds us that Male & Female, we were created in the image of God. That there’s a Mother in there, the Hen gathering Her chicks under Her wing, or the agony of a torn veil at the death of a son.

When we imagine the story of Noah, we often think of a high and mighty warrior God, smiting most of creation in order to satisfy some sick judgment. We are deeply disturbed, and even with the salvation of one single family and a bunch of animals, the devastation of the planet seems incredibly troubling – despite the rainbow at the end. I mean, it makes total sense to me why Noah goes on a bender within short order after landing.

But I want to re-imagine this story, trusting that God was not distressed by Goddess culture in the ANE, and that God didn’t feel threatened by Tiamat, but that God wanted to provide a counter-narrative to the birthing of conflict of terror and violence that erupted from Tiamat’s womb. I want you to imagine, if you will, that like other women since the dawn of creation, God realized that she was birthing something that had what we might call “failure to thrive.” And this realization led to one of the most heart-wrenching, grief-filled decisions that this Mothering God had to make. Does She allow the toxic, violent, murderous life to poison the whole womb of creation, love, and ordering that She’s gestating and co-laboring for in this primordial world? Or does She make the agonizing decision to flush the dying children from the womb in order to give Noah’s line the best possible chance to survive and create something beautiful? Perhaps the termination of this portion of her gestation was the best possible choice of No. Good. Choice. And maybe, just maybe, God understands the woman’s grief of having our identity and value in society determined by the by-products of our lady parts.

When we imagine the story through this lens, we are transported into a profound counter-narrative to other flood stories and a re-integration and remembrance of creation in the most confounding of stories. We are invited to return to the promise of the Spirit hovering over the waters and breathing life into the most meaningful and life-giving of creations. We are invited into the womb of darkness and despair in order to emerge into the world of light and air.

Noah’s story, then, becomes a place of healing and hope for those who have lost pregnancies, had to terminate them – by choice or by necessity, for those who fail to conceive. The Mothering God understands deeply the loss of women who have pregnancies that fail to thrive in a world that is hell-bent on determining the worth of women by the production of their wombs. The story becomes a beacon of a Mothering God’s understanding of what it is like to see life that you intended for blessing washed away in saline and blood. It invites us into a story of blessing and hope for the imagining that God creates as She blesses woman after woman in the Scriptures not only with children when all hope was lost, but also with purpose and identity, creativity and grit beyond the birthing of babies. We see a Mothering God who gives identity to the childless – like Deborah, Miriam and the daughters of Zelophehad, as well as to those great Mothers who continued the lines and re-enacted the covenant – like Jehochebed, mother of Moses, Sarah and Hagar, Leah & Rebecca & Bilhah & Zilpah and even Elizabeth and Mary. We see a Mothering God who empowers the midwives in Egypt to refuse their orders and continue life, Mary to conceive and bear a son, and Lydia & Euodia & Syntyche & Junia to blaze trails through the new Church.

A Mothering God has a vision to empower women with or without children – whose identity is grounded in their Belovedness as daughters of a profoundly blessing, empowering, nurturing Mother God. We are given worth and beauty in receiving our inherent image from the one who is continually creating, continually caring, continually nurturing, sustaining, innovating, sowing peace and reaping righteousness. We are grounded in a vision of a Mother God who brings life from emptiness and agony in the way that only women can. We are given a view of the power of grief and tears and their necessity to clear the floor for new things to emerge. We are shown that our “womb” is a profound symbol of the power that we have been given to give “birth” to new things in this world with power, strength, and bearing down. Noah gives us hope that no longer are we alone in our grief of stillbirths – our children of flesh or our children of spirit and ideas – and our failed starts and our failures to thrive.

So, I offer this poem, written from the heart of a grieving womb, for those of you with infertility, lost pregnancies, ended pregnancies, and for those women who have no desire to be pregnant at all. Because you are seen by a Mothering God. You are beloved despite your pro-creation or the production of your wombs. You are Beloved because you are a precious half of the image of God, living, breathing, and a custodian of the creative force in the universe for its beautification and its nurture. Blessed be.

From the Dark Waters of a Mothering God

When the dark waters rose
~~There was no seed in Sarah
No light could penetrate the depths
~~There was no seed in Rebecca
of the womb of blood and saline
~~The seed of Tamar ill-conceived
of the waves of darkness and terror
~~Hagar’s child forsaken, feared, abandoned
The womb of the world that was emptied
~~Bathsheba’s agony, thrice endured
As She swallowed the deadly, bitter truth
~~A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping
Her children are failing to thrive
~~Her children are no more
No heartbeat, no soul, no empathy
~~The innocents dashed against a stone
Leprous and diseased from the inside out, devoid of feeling and health
~~The sons smothered before taking a breath
And those bitter herbs of truth taken
~~Yet Hannah & Elizabeth’s tenacious hope
Detached those lives from her heartbeat
~~And the fierceness of Miriam in worship
Created the perfect storm
~~To part the seas for her people
The rain and thunder as those lives were drowned
~~No mother should outlive Her children
Pushing those lives through the birth canal
~~Blood and tears, sweat and agony
Ejected into outer darkness
~~The grief of Mary at the foot of the cross
And A Mother’s tears of Grief that filled the world
~~the veil was torn in two, to remove the barrier
Transformed into a Rainbow of Promise
~~Lydia, Deborah, Junia empowered
The deepest Sorrow of No Good Choice at all
~~Except Surrender
Turned into a glimmer of hope offered
~~the daughters anointed, burning with Spirit
A branch of peace extended
~~Reunited with Her in the cool of the Garden
An understanding reached
~~Her glory revealed, Beloved, Bride, but no longer simply Birthing
Of Her perfect Image revealed in them, the daughters of God

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