I have a really bad memory. Like my first child, Jessica, I never seem to be where I am. My imagination, from birth, has left the place where my body is present to run willy-nilly as it wishes, in all different directions, exploring, wondering, creating, dreaming. And that may be the only character trait I share with my first daughter, my firstborn, Jessica.
But I didn't understand how my strong-willed, creative little dreamer, became so vulnerable and unable to stand her ground in a man’s world when she was younger. I watched her become so frail.
I come from a long line of strong women. My maternal grandmother went to college (St. Olaf, class of 1912). Every one of her descendants were expected to follow suit. Being a girl was never a copout. We were encouraged to become whatever we wanted to be, and do whatever we wanted to do. We were a progressive lot, Norwegian Socialists, intellectuals, artists and writers. Men in my family embraced their women as equals and celebrated all their accomplishments.
I never had a problem with the masculine terminology surrounding God. I just always knew it included me. And God played a huge part in our family as my father was a Lutheran pastor (as well as my grandfather, brother, uncle and several cousins).
The man I chose for my life-partner was raised by a fiercely independent woman and her husband loved her and gave her power and freedom. Equality defined our marriage.
When Jessica was three, her brother was one, I was 23. With no means of transportation, we were confined to our apartment complex, two preschoolers, and a husband who worked 8am-10pm, 6 days a week.
A sudden onset of panic attacks (no Xanax in 1979) drove me to desperately seek spiritual help. Real, immediate, personal God help. It’s not a Lutheran commodity. I did the unthinkable and tuned in to Pat Robertson and the 700 Club, and listened to “Christian” radio.
I have a good excuse for grasping for anything that would bring stability into my chaos. I recently learned that the adult brain is not completely formed until the age of 25. Wish I’d known that then, because at 25, when my adult brain was just a baby, I had three babies of my own.
We were an Air Force family. We moved every three years. So, as we settled in to our home at Griffiss AFB, in upstate New York, we left the Lutheran church for something more fundamentalist, Pentecostal, charismatic, non-denominational. I found solid ground on which to stand and, well, breathe. I had supportive friends, women who would drop everything to pray with me. I got to know my Bible, albeit with fuzzy interpretation. I even witnessed my share of miracles, and wonders. And the panic attacks stopped.
But Jessica was listening. All those hours of 700 Club, PTL Club, audio tapes of Kenneth Copeland sermons. What’s worse, I sent her to a fundamentalist Baptist school her first three years of grade school. Had I known how it would affect her, I would have sacrificed my sanity to avoid it. I was a moron. I admit it. I’m sorry. Don’t judge.
When the Air Force moved our little family from New York to Texas, we joined a local Lutheran church. The duration of our 21 year Air Force career included Presbyterianism and Methodism, depending on churches in each community. But, being military, we were still fairly conservative in our politics and theology. Since birth I’ve been conservative. I have no excuse, other than I was born that way. God created me with a bent that way, and, well, “that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.” So, even though I listened NPR, I also listened to Rush Limbaugh for a few years. I tell myself I just wanted to understand both sides of every issue, (“that’s my story…”). Thankfully, gradually, we came to our senses, though what took a few years of spiritual wandering for me resulted in 35 years of spiritual turbulence for Jessica.
Divine like a girl.
My initial reaction to this project was one of trepidation, and fear of using the words “goddess” and “Lent” in the same sentence. All my conservative, Bible-believing friends will think I’ve abandoned my faith, I’m destined for hell for sure.
The word “goddess” to most Christians conjures up images of witchcraft, the devil, the Whore of Babylon… and a generous dose of the first commandment.
Let me reassure my friends and family that I do not advocate worship of any of these goddesses as live beings – or dead ones, for that matter. I’m curious about God’s nature. I’m curious about the woman I’m becoming.
Something is happening to me. I feel like I’m shedding my skin, sloughing off old, dead parts of me that have become too heavy to bear. I feel like a new me is ready to emerge, and I’m not sure what she will look like. I carry an impression, a vague sense of wonder and maybe even joy, or hope. I’m in the midst of chaos, both in my family and in my world, but in my core there’s something stirring.
I attribute this phenomenon to three things. Firstly, I turned 60 this year. I no longer fret about trying to be beautiful for others. I speak my mind without a care for anyone’s opinion of me. I see considerable beauty in every woman I encounter. I feel powerful and independent and my internal mantra is, “I’m a woman. I’m 60 years old. Don’t mess with me.” Does this happen to most postmenopausal women?
Secondly, the culmination of several life-events threw me into a deep depression. I crawled out of my black hole, after two years with an insightful therapist (everyone should have one).
Thirdly, several years ago I fixated on Jesus’s life and ministry in an attempt to know God better and find some depth of meaning in my Christianity. I took into account history and culture, but tried to see with new eyes like I was hearing the story for the first time. I avoided turning every point into an application for my life, but simply focused on the man, Jesus, and what he said. My world view got turned on its head.
This is a round-about way to come to the point in all of this. Women got a bad rap. God got a bad rap. If you espouse the whole “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” thing, isn’t a third of God feminine? She has to be. Can there be any creation without the female?
When did we lose Her? She was strong in our ancient stories and myths, many of which are found in our book of Beginnings (Genesis).
Ancient Greeks, Romans, Semitics, African, Asian, North American natives and Eur0pean peoples all carry related myths of gods and goddesses. They sing epic tales of heroes, saints, rebels, explorers, lovers, creators, sages and magicians, all of whom are the basic archetypes, symbols, universal truths of the human psyche. The psyche God created… in God’s likeness.
Our oldest stories, those told before time and history reveal God as female. The female gave birth, fed and nurtured humanity. Men were food gatherers and protectors of the sacred woman. When did the tables turn? When did the Divine Feminine get stripped of her glory and her power? Why was that done to God?
Hence my desire to find Her, and find myself in God.
How does that fit in to Lent?
As a time of introspection, Lent provides an opportunity to get “real” with one’s self. Carl Jung used the word “shadow” to symbolize our “dark side” (thank you, Darth Vader). Can God/Goddess help us walk the sacred Christian tradition of looking into one’s own “death of self” on the journey to the cross of Holy Week in preparation for a resurrection?
Let’s find out together!