Christ our Mother—Incarnate and Embodied Feminine Power

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Trigger warning: Mention of miscarriage

Women were always included in the story of Jesus the Christ. They gathered around the cross, held vigil, wept, and clung to the last vestiges of hope. Women were the first persons to witness an empty grave, an encounter with a mistaken gardener, a declaration from heavenly messengers to go and tell the truth about what they have seen first hand. Women bore resurrection in their bodies and souls.

For a long time I was satisfied to see myself in this tableau, standing on that hillside, looking up into the grace filled eyes and bloody face of the one who absorbed so much of my shame and pain. 

But recently I have begun to wonder, “Why have I not seen myself in Jesus? Why am I always the bystander in the story? Is it because his earthly body was male? Is it because of the 40 years I was embedded in western evangelical orthodoxy structures that repeatedly reinforced a hetero-male-centric framework from which to understand all of the ancient texts?”

After all, the climax of the events on Good Friday was the culmination of the redemption apex when God Incarnate, in flesh and bones and blood, allowed himself to be splintered and bruised. Precious life-giving blood spilled out of him and drained him of his human breath. Sacrifice and death in order to bring about new life.

Sacrifice. Blood. Agony. Ecstasy. 

As a woman, I know about that. 

Women have embodied and experienced nearly everything about the life and death of Jesus. Just like Jesus, our bodies pump blood and water to bring forth new life. Just like Jesus, our bodies have been subjected to control by men, parents, colonizers who would capture, rape and enslave. Just like Jesus, our bodies have been sensationalized, sexualized, brutalized by twisted cultural rules meant to oppress and control.

When Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life”  in John 6:35, and “I am the living water, drink of me” in John 7:37-39, he was telling us that his human, divine, incarnate, and mysterious body nourishes us; it is a source of sustenance and growth. When I imagine the final supper on the eve of the Passover, when Jesus and his beloveds gathered together, I see him break the bread and pour the red wine. He tells his friends to look at his body, broken and ripped apart, and to see his blood spilled, poured out, drained. I imagine silence followed in those moments as those gathered tried to make sense of what they just witnessed. 

Bread and wine.
Blood and bodies.
Death and birth. 

My own body has bled and fed. It has nurtured and brought forth new life in miraculous ways.

With unbelievable joy and blissful ignorance of what was to come, I consented to co-creating new life inside of my very body. Five times no less. Blood pumped through my veins sustained both of us. The food I consumed was broken into nourishment for both of us. Cravings fueled our competing desires. Stretch marks appeared to mark the expanding territory of my unseen roommate. 

Three times my body was cut open. Blood and fluids spilled out onto crisp, white hospital sheets as doctors and nurses reached inside of me to pull out the tiny humans. First a boy, then a second boy. And then fifth, a girl. 

And two times my body was forced to go to sleep so that the remains of what once was a life-in-the-making could be put to rest. Third a boy, fourth a girl.

My own body has bled and fed. But it has also betrayed me and destroyed life in unimaginably painful ways.

I developed a blood disorder in my 30s. My blood would clot abnormally and instead of flowing to give life, it would effectively create dams that cut off the blood to my womb. Instead of life, my blood brought death. And grief. And loss. 

I no longer see myself merely standing on that hillside watching Jesus die. I am not just a bystander in the life, death and resurrection story; I am contained within it. 

As I have been immersed these past few weeks processing all these deep considerations of kinship with Jesus and re-imagining Jesus as one who bleeds and feeds like women, can it be that Jesus is also my mother? 

“Our great Father, almighty God, who is being, knows us and loved us before time began. Out of this knowledge, in his most wonderful deep love, by the prescient eternal counsel of all the blessed Trinity, he wanted the second person to become our Mother, our brother, our savior. From this it follows that, as truly as God is our Father, so truly is God our Mother” —Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, (1342-1413)

For centuries women have been forced to look outside the church to activate and unleash their feminine power, this glorious God-bestowed presence that existed from the beginning of creation. It had just been cloaked by patriarchy and human depravity. 

When we truly examine the posture and presence of Jesus throughout the texts, the evidence of Jesus as Mother is overwhelming. Jesus healed, and multiplied fish and bread to feed those who were hungry. He restored dignity and protected the vulnerable against violent oppressors. Jesus embraced children and outcasts, immigrants and those who stood in the shadows. Jesus laboured and gave birth to the church and continues to groan with labour pains for those whom he loves, nurtures and raises up.

Lately I have been whispering the words, O Jesus my Mother, as a hope-filled prayer and a lingering question, a brave statement and unfolding revelation.

I have been re-reading the stories of Jesus from a feminine lens, watching, listening, reimagining their wisdom rooted in feminine, divine mystery.

And I have come to this realization—Jesus truly is the source of my feminine power. He is the one who has breathed life into me, body and soul. Like a mother he has birthed beauty and brilliance inside of me, with a touch of stubbornness and whimsy. The kinship I share with Jesus is undeniable. If, as hymns of old tell us, there is power in the blood, then that same blood runs through me. It heals and cleanses, it brings forth life, it strengthens me with courage and boldness. 

It leads. It loves. It reaches out. It stands tall. It sacrifices. It overcomes.

I do not need to leave my faith to embody my feminine power. It was here all along. I just need to believe it first, then unleash it.

***

 

Let’s Go Deeper: 

Sisters, I don’t have this all figured out. I am sitting with discomfort even as I grapple with these paradigm shifting theological deliberations. But I feel very strongly that we can do theology publicly when we genuinely do the work, when we hold it loosely and with humility and when we stay curious about what we know and what we don’t know that we don’t yet know. 

Some of the writings that have been shaping my thinking lately include the following: 

  • The Kindness of God: Metaphor, Gender and Religious Language (2011) by Janet Martin Soskice
  • Revelations of Divine Love, the ancient text by English mystic Julian of Norwich (1342-1413)
  • Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living (2016) by Krista Tippett’s
  • The poetry of David Whyte, John O’ Donohue and Padraig O’Tuama.

 

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Brenda-Lee Sasaki
I am an unapologetic extrovert who can’t help but invite all I encounter to jump into my abundant, venti life, usually around a table with sweets or savories and often accompanied by a full-bodied merlot or quad americano. I preach (sometimes), teach (most of the time), read, write and research (all of the time), coach and strategize (when invited), and make mischief (as often as possible.) I am a fierce ally and advocate for brothers and sisters on the fringes of mainstream western evangelicalism. I am wife to 1, mom to 3 and Auntie B to many.
Brenda-Lee Sasaki
Brenda-Lee Sasaki

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