Discomfort and Longing: Identity Crisis and God

Posted by on October 11, 2010 in Heavenly Mother, Jesus, women | 21 comments

When I was in high school, a popular song by Dishwalla went something like this:
“Tell me all your thoughts on God.
Cause I’d really like to meet her.
And ask her why we’re who we are.”

Although the tune was catchy and I liked the artist, I forced myself to turn this song off when I heard it on the radio. My super-seminary self thought that this song was desecrating God by calling Him a her. The lyrics made me uncomfortable and I felt like God was watching me to see if I would choose right and turn off the song.

In the last few years, I’ve spent more time thinking about God as female, or the divine feminine. It’s still not a concept I’m entirely comfortable with, but I wish I was. So I try to integrate a female God image into my worship.

During church today, as the Priests were blessing the sacrament, my mind substituted female pronouns for male pronouns and I found myself thinking about God as a female.

It felt like a poem to me, the Sacrament prayer to a Heavenly Mother.

“O God, the Eternal Mother, we ask thee in the name of thy Daughter, Sophia* Christa, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it; that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Daughter, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Mother, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Daughter, and always remember her, and keep her commandments which she has[3] given them, that they may always have her Spirit to be with them. Amen.” (Book of Moroni 4:3, Doctrine and Covenants 20:77).

The prayer on the water had to be repeated, so I had extra time to ponder the meaning of blood and water from a Mother’s perspective. It was a powerful reminder of the gift of life.

“O God, the Eternal Mother, we ask thee, in the name of thy Daughter, Sophia* Christa, to bless and sanctify this [water] to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Daughter, which was shed for them; that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Mother, that they do always remember her, that they may have her Spirit to be with them. Amen.” (Book of Moroni 5:2, Doctrine and Covenants 20:79).

I wish I could say that I felt calm or peaceful after thinking about the prayers in this way. Mostly, I felt alone. It was like I was the only person in the room with a huge void in my soul.

In fact, I thought to myself, “It’s a good thing this isn’t testimony meeting or I might get up and tell everybody about my new version of the sacrament prayer and what it means to me.”  Then I realized it was testimony meeting and I got that sick feeling in my stomach like I used to when I promised myself I would go and bear my testimony.

But I didn’t. I couldn’t think of a way to share my longing and discomfort in a way that would be uplifting for people and that’s the point of testimony meeting, isn’t it? Where’s the meeting where we share our fears and imaginations? Our changing faith and lack thereof?

In summary, I’m glad for Dishwalla all those years ago that pushed me to think of God outside my seminary box. Although I acknowledge that the androcentrism of Mormonism is painful for me, I can’t say that I find peace in the divine feminism. Perhaps it’s that I’m looking in the wrong places. Perhaps there is no divine feminine. Perhaps it’s just bad timing.

But in the meantime, I’m thinking more about the divine within me and the divine within the people around me. Making these connections is what helps me get through this identity crisis I’m having with God.

*I chose Sophia because she is the Goddess of Wisdom in the Old Testament. I choose to also substitute a female savior for Jesus, but I don’t think that’s a common practice for feminists.

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21 Comments

  1. Thank you, Jessawhy. You have so beautifully put into words many of my same feelings. I was thinking about the Divine Feminine this morning as I prayed, trying to imagine different ways in which She might be manifest (trying to think outside that “seminary box”). Then I thought it odd that through all my questioning I have never stopped praying. It comes so naturally to me, and though I have quit believing many things, I can’t seem to stop believing (though I certainly have tried) that there is some Divine Presence out there, some cosmic Something that embraces both female and male, links us all together, and raises us above this earthly sphere. Your words have given me yet more food for thought.

  2. This is timely for me because I started reading last night (and finished this morning) Mother Wove the Morning. I thought about how as a child I would often add to my prayers, “Heavenly Father, say ‘hi’ to Heavenly Mother for me,” but how I don’t as an adult and how it feels weird to do so because it’s almost sinful to even mention Her. I’ve been thinking of ways to add Her to my life now, though. Thank you for this.

  3. I spent my morning pondering the Divine Feminine and her importance in this world when I ran across your post – beautiful. I love the idea of finding the Divine within myself and those around me.

  4. Oh, I love the idea of inserting Her into sacrament prayers. What a great idea!

    I also have a pet peeve of people who object to using religious imagery in pop culture. Hearing/seeing aspects of Christianity or spirituality portrayed in a way like you mentioned with the Dishwalla song has always helped me to stop and think about the subject in a different and more deeper way than I might have otherwise.

  5. I go back and forth on the ways that I think about our relationship to Heavenly Mother. At times, it feels very natural to include her in my life and my prayers, and logically, shouldn’t we have access to her and know at least as much about her as we do about our Father? When I consider that we don’t know her more intimately simply because we haven’t asked or because revelation hasn’t been petitioned, I feel a small measure of comfort that this isn’t how She wants it to be, just how things are because of the vision of short sighted men.

    But then, I have to question why she isn’t included in anything directly from Heavenly Father Himself, or mentioned by Christ? Still speculation, but why wouldn’t they ever allude to Her if they wanted Her to be more visible to us? Why wouldn’t she have been part of the vision? So, I have to conclude that there is a reason for her absence that we don’t have, one that is separate from the “mistakes of man”. But I can’t imagine what it is. Like others have said before, wouldn’t she, as a mother, want to be included in our lives? But is that based on our earthly view of motherhood?

    Maybe she’s busy creating somewhere, and left Heavenly Father to do the discipline. I know I sometimes wish I could just leave that part to my husband ;)

    But really, maybe our view of gender roles in the eternities isn’t all correct. Or maybe, in light of Joseph Smith’s revelation (King Follett sermon) that God didn’t actually create our spirits, that we don’t truly have a “mother” in the truest sense. I think, it could be possible that Heavenly Father has a wife and partner, and that She is divine, but that She isn’t actually our mother. In that case HF isn’t actually our “father” in that way either, and we are all just spirits from the same source, but that God played a role in organizing us and giving us bodies to create our “soul”, and “father” was the closest we could come in the limits of language to understanding.

    Speculation is interesting, but in the day to day living, how much of it matters? For me and mine, I continue to include her in my definition of “God”, but I don’t speak about Her disproportionately because it doesn’t yet make sense to transfer any aspect of religion to Her. Of course, I certainly want to remove the taboos that keep us from speaking of Her at all and from trying to understand, just as we try to understand the nature of Godhood itself.

  6. I feel for you on this one, Jessawhy. I want to find peace and wholeness in the divine feminine, but have not been able to.

    For me, I think this was an issue of timing. I didn’t start looking for the divine feminine until my faith in my traditional religion had already been blown to shreds. It’s been ages since I’ve felt any of those strong spiritual experiences that I thrived on in younger years. I approached my Heavenly Mother at a time when my skepticism overrode my spirituality. I think if I had been led to her earlier, when I still maintained a real handle on faith, it would have been a different story.

  7. “I’m thinking more about the divine within me and the divine within the people around me.” Your statement captures the essence of religion. How differently we would treat ourselves and each other if we could remember the divine within each of us.

  8. About this – “…I couldn’t think of a way to share my longing and discomfort in a way that would be uplifting for people and that’s the point of testimony meeting, isn’t it? Where’s the meeting where we share our fears and imaginations? Our changing faith and lack thereof?”

    I’ve pondered this as well and like you, I haven’t come up with the answer to this. The thing that is problematic is that people sit on the pews and assume that everyone feels the same way. That everyone is in the same place with regards to testimony. We assume this because we don’t have a place within our tradition where it’s alright to express doubt. Many have found a safe place to do this on the web. A community of sorts of other people who maybe asking the same questions, or grappling with the same issues. However, I think there’s a real fear there that communities of unconventional people/ doubters will reinforce each other in their non-belief. Some will become catalysts for others to walk that path. That has been a concern of mine for quite awhile. How to balance supporting people. To recognize that we aren’t all in the same place with regards to our faith journey and yet all can feel welcome and affirmed. How do we do this without effecting other people in a negative way by possibly opening up areas of uncertainty for them. I don’t have all the answers. I do believe that we need to seek inspiration to know when our words and experiences will be of help to someone. It may be that we will be inspired to just ponder these things in our hearts most of the time, without giving them voice. I frequently seem to get the “Peace. Be still.” answer.

  9. “I wish I could say that I felt calm or peaceful after thinking about the prayers in this way. Mostly, I felt alone. It was like I was the only person in the room with a huge void in my soul.”

    Look, I get that the point of this post isn’t to elicit sympathy. I wish I could comment on topic better, but I don’t have any better ideas than you do. So your stuck with my sympathy. The resonance of alone-ness. Maybe you were the only person in the room, maybe you weren’t. But all over the world, probably at the exact same times, even, there are people feeling like you do.

    • *you’re

      sigh

  10. There’s been quite a discussion over at Times and Seasons. Some nice quotes there in the comments by people like Elaine Jack.

    http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2010/10/in-praise-of-heavenly-mother/

  11. “Where’s the meeting where we share our fears and imaginations? Our changing faith and lack thereof?”

    Right here :)

    And you are not alone. This weekend, however, I have been loving this book:

    http://www.amazon.com/Women-Scripture-Dictionary-Apocryphal-Deuterocanonical/dp/0395709369

    Seriously awesome — and helped me pull out all the “God represented as a mother” for my Sunday School lesson this week — because there were six references in nine chapters! I think I have a book review post percolating.

  12. Thanks for all of the comments. I can’t respond to every one right now, but I’m glad to hear that my experience yesterday resonated with some of you.

    Deborah: My BiL called last night to tell me about a Jewish bible study guide that discusses chapters 40-49 of Isaiah as having questionable authorship. Perhaps because of the mother imagery, experts acknowledge that it may have been a woman who wrote those chapters. Very exciting!

    KGS,
    I appreciate your sympathy, although you’re right I wasn’t looking for it. I didn’t mention this in my post, but the best testimony in the meeting was an very old woman, recently widowed, whom I know very well. She has been through many very difficult trials, but all she could say at the pulpit was how much God had blessed her and how she feels so lucky and so loved. It really put my little internal struggle in perspective as I looked at my beautiful family and our happy life. I admire that woman a lot and vowed to feel less sorry for myself and look outside myself more.

    Rebecca,
    As far as the place for insights about Heavenly Mother, I think testimony meeting can be a place for this or other pro-women comments, but I think I need to plan them better. My experience was more emotional and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to put the right spin on it to make it positive. But, it does give me hope that if I spend more time preparing, I can come up with a testimony that will bridge the gap between what is in my heart and what the ears of the members can handle.

    nat kelly,
    Wow, I hadn’t thought of it that way, but perhaps that is part of my problem. Have you read Dance of the Dissident daughter? It helped me think of the divine feminine in a way outside the framework of Mormonism (although I clearly haven’t found peace with the concept yet).

  13. ““Where’s the meeting where we share our fears and imaginations? Our changing faith and lack thereof?”

    Right here :-)”

    I love this comment.

  14. About the Divine Feminine:

    I had a very bratty, bitter reaction to that recent post at Times and Seasons. As I read the author’s experience in Elder’s Quorum, I thought, “Welcome to being a woman.” Basically – “Okay, fine. You had one bad experience. Now what about the many struggles we women have collectively had with male leaders and male opinions?”

    Maybe I shouldn’t even share this opinion in a public forum like this blog. But that’s how I felt.

  15. To Jessawhy – what if your yearnings for the Divine Feminine, and your efforts to understand Heavenly Mother are what will ultimately lead you to a richer, more real knowledge of who God is? I think you should keep on with the path you are taking.

    And what if you did use Testimony Meeting as a forum to share your honest struggles and your fledgling inspirations? I guess some people could react by feeling uncomfortable, but at least you would be speaking truth as you know it.

  16. Angie,
    Thanks for the comments. It’s nice to hear support. If it wasn’t for my EQP husband I might just take the chance on speaking my truth. But, I worry that it would be painful and perhaps embarrassing for him to hear in that public setting.

    • EQP husband here. I don’t have any “problems” with my wife discussing her position with other people, even publicly. But I’m hesitant to accept Testimony meetings as the most appropriate outlet. Besides, no one really wants to hear about an arduous spiritual fight when there are so many cute seven year-olds lined up ready to say (breathing heavily into the microphone) “I want to bear my testimony . . .”

  17. Sorry for my rambling. I just reread my comment and realized that most of it should have probably been written in my journal, or at least my own blog. I didn’t mean to wash over your experience with my incessant questioning and introspection, Jessawhy. My bad.

  18. Corktree,
    Don’t worry about it. I liked your comment, it’s always nice to hear the experiences that others have surrounding these issues. It wasn’t rambling at all.
    Your comment just makes me wish that our church meetings could be places where we share like we do on these threads, instead of just repeating the same dogma over and over.

  19. You go to the same place where mothers in their worst depths of sorrow go after they have lost a child and when people ask how they are doing they say “fine” instead of “today is a good day. I only thought about ending my life 3 times.” Because you can’t say what you feel. We don’t live in that world. You look for people who are driving the same car as you. And then you stay there. Because that is where you are comfortable.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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