Friday, June 27, 2008

Exercising the Feminine Aspect

by Julie Smith

The world is hungry for a bigger picture of God. We are hungry to understand and see a picture of the Divine that reaches out to nurture and lead us. We have the picture of The Good Shepherd in the image of Christ and we are drawn to see a picture of God that holds us in the hollow of that kind of protected loving. It gives us a glimpse of the picture of the Mother image of God.

Cultures throughout time have created pictures of God that include a feminine side. Sadly, throughout the history of Christianity, we have often vilified the feminine aspect of God. We hold a picture of the Godhead as being totally masculine. This has driven many from the doors of the church in search of a religion that will embrace the feminine qualities of God that in our hearts we know exists.

In psychology, the idea of balancing the masculine and feminine aspects within oneself is critical to becoming a whole, healthy individual. Within religion, balancing the feminine and masculine aspects of God is critical to becoming a whole and healthy church. We were created in the feminine/masculine aspects of God. We need to create a truer picture of this God within the church by equally honoring these qualities.

The masculine qualities can be compared with a life force energy that seeds the feminine qualities of the void. The feminine aspect is the womb-like environment that allows the seed of creation to grow. In nature, we are perfectly clear how this process works. In life, in spirituality, however, we seem to have become ignorant on this.

Nicodemus, an influential spiritual leader in the time of Christ, came for a secret interview to find out where Jesus received his incredible, healing, magical-like qualities. His level of spiritual power had not been seen in Israel for quite some time. Jesus embodied the balancing of the masculine and feminine aspects of God. He was Spirit-filled. He was the perfect receptive womb for the infilling of the power of God.

How might we understand the Divine Feminine aspects of God within our own lives and within the church? How might we become more Spirit-filled and empowered to let the healing power of God flow through us?

To exercise the feminine aspect within us is to commit to becoming empty. We do this through the regular spiritual practice of quietness and meditation. We include quietness before God as a vital part of becoming the womb for the Spirit to grow Divine gifts in.

We are quite familiar with the masculine aspects of doing and acting. We are out of balance in the feminine aspects of becoming empty and becoming Spirit filled.

We have excluded the female gender from important aspects of ministry within the church because we believe that the masculine aspect of God is superior. We have confused gender issues with the issues of the masculine and feminine qualities that both men and women possess. In reality, both aspects are equal and both genders are needed equally in all forms of ministry and leadership.

Until we understand the differences between the masculine and feminine aspects of God and we understand the need to balance these qualities in our own spiritual practice and in the practice of the church we will continue to argue over issues of equality and the ordination of women. Unless we grow in this area, we will become a dying church.

We see the results of our treatment of Mother Earth. It is but a symptom of our treatment of the Divine Feminine. We have the opportunity to correct our course. Whether we choose to do so or not remains to be seen.

The most important question facing us personally is whether or not we will open ourselves in quietness and emptiness before God. The spiritual future of our lives and of our church depends on our learning to exercise the feminine aspect and balancing it with our overdeveloped masculine aspect of doing.

The Spirit quietly reminds us, “Be still and know…”


  1. Julie, I have just scanned Elizabeth Schuster Fiorenza'a book 'In Memory of Her' for the second time. I so enjoy her view of scripture.

    There is absolutely no doubt that if women had written large tracts of scripture it would have been from an entirely different perspective. No wonder we 'see' God from the perspective of men - after all it is written primarily by men. Certainly the Biblical view of women expressed in those early days in Leviticus and Deuteronomy do not place too high a value on women.

    I think Fiorenza has something important to say when she hints at the subversive nature of scripture. To me the important point is that scripture subverts itself - Jesus truly passes judgement or subverts the Old Testament where a woman is to be stoned for adultery - and so on.

    To me this places a higher value on the nature and purpose of the written Word. We are surely to delve more deeply into exactly how and why the writers redact accounts the way they do in both the Old Testament and the New. Context and retoric is also vitally important.

    I wonder sometimes whether Barth's ground-breaking comment on scripture is not of major importance where he speaks of scripture as not being the word of God but rather revealing the Word of God - in Jesus himself.

    Anyway, that is not half the story of women's struggle for a place in the sun.

  2. Gordon,

    Thanks for your comments. I haven't read Elizabeth Schuster Fiorenza but she sounds like an author I would find interesting.

    The scripture that comes to mind from your remarks about Barth is one where Jesus says, "You search the scriptures for in them you think you will find eternal life, but they speak of me." We often misconstrue points in scripture because we do not allow the Spirit to do the teaching and we do not consider the author and context of those scriptures--a point which I appreciate you making.

    The life of Christ is a powerful testimony to the truth about God. His life should clarify any misunderstandings we have regarding the treatment of women and many other issues. What remains unclear, the indwelling Spirit should help us to unravel and understand.

    Sadly, it is the lack of the Spirit living in our lives that makes many of our religious forms stale and lifeless. I love the definition of the Shekinah presence that is found in the Hebrew--She who dwells within. If we would embrace this concept how might our church and our lives change?

    We have not just rejected the feminine aspect within the gender of women and men, we have rejected it within religion, our culture, and the planet. As we learn to honor the feminine aspect of God, our treatment of the feminine in everything will change.

  3. Yes, I would say that Fiorenza is an important author to consider when reflecting on feminist theology. Perhaps Bauckham tries to balance it a litle in his book 'Gospel Women'. Where Fiorenza's use of literary/historical tools might lead us in directions away from scripture Bauckham will squeeze the last drop of water out of a text to gain a fuller understanding of women's place in scripture.

  4. Creating balance between polarities is one of the most important issues facing us this century. We tend towards extremes. The concept of a new heaven and a new earth is one based on this idea of perfect harmony and balance. If we could only get this figured out--what a difference it would make in our own lives, the life of the church, and in the world!

    Balance in the realm of spirituality is about being completely empty and receptive (the feminine aspect) and completely filled and responsding to Spirit (the masculine aspect). It is the work of both genders to incorporate and balance both aspects in their lives. Prejudice, inequality, contention, and pride cease to exist in a Spirit-filled person. Miraculous, isn't it?