Malchut. Also known as Shechinah, God’s Maternal Presence. Yesod. Foundation. Malchut she’b’Yesod: Mother God at the foundation of the world.
So, this happened to me about two years ago.
I am walking on the UBC campus one day. Early in the afternoon, before teaching my class. It’s a damp, grey day, so I’m in a bit of a hurry. Two young Korean women, university students, approach me. Each one is holding a Bible. Oh crap, I think. Fundamentalist Christian missionaries.
“Excuse me,” they say, “Do you have a minute?”
“Yes,” I say. “But only a minute.” I imagine I’m smiling kindly.
“We would like to prove to you,” they say, “that God is a woman.”
Whoa, I think. Not your typical missionaries. Now I’m intrigued. And I’m really smiling. Because I definitely have more than a minute for this conversation!
They open their Bible to the beginning. “Look,” they say, “at the beginning of Genesis. The Bible says, ‘the spirit of God hovers over the waters.’ And the Hebrew for ‘hovering’ is a female word! “
How they know this, I’m not sure. Because the Bible they are holding is a contemporary English translation.
“Now, look at this!” they say. And they flip to the end of their Bible. The final verses of the Book of Revelation. “It says, ‘The spirit and the Bride say, come!’ So, the spirit of God is female. That proves God is a woman.”
Technically, it proves that the spirit of God is female. Not that God Itself is female. Or anything like a human woman. Still, I get their point. The Bible begins and ends with God’s feminine spirit. She births the world, and she calls it into maturity. Everything else has to be read in light of these two bookends.
But I don’t say either of those things. I don’t correct or re-state what they said.
Instead, I say, “Let me show you something, too!” And I flip to the Book of Proverbs, chapter 8.
“Look,” I say. “It says wisdom is a woman. And that wisdom was with God before creation. As a nanny, a designer, a playful friend.”
We talk for about twenty minutes. Then, I give them my business card. I tell them they would love the Vancouver School of Theology.
Then, I walk back to class, dancing a little, and smiling a lot.
Because the young women are brave and radical. They are part of a conservative Protestant church. No one there speaks of God the Mother. But these women hear her calling, anyway.
Happy Mothers Day. In all its terrible complexity.
Today is the 42nd day of the Omer, i.e., six weeks.
New to counting the Omer? Here’s a primer.
Image: Sabbath Queen, by Moses Ephraim Lilien