The Womb of God

I’ve used the image of the womb of God for a while now in my prayer and in my writing. When I first considered the idea, it seemed awkward to me because in my childhood the only image of God we were taught was God the Father. Even the Bible affirmed it. But the very idea of God’s womb—safe, comforting, calming, restful—well, it seemed irresistible and welcoming after a long journey out of a fear based masculine image of God that paralleled the image of my own father. And now that I’ve experienced a womb-like presence of God in my prayer life I find it to be all that I imagined.

I’ve wondered about feminine images of God for a long time. I’ve gone to a few conferences exploring the subject and just happened to be at the Re-Awakening Conference that caused such a furor in the nineties. I guess, for most of my adult life, I’ve just tried to keep open the possibility that God could be a masculine and feminine spirit. I don’t suggest this with feminist insistence and I’m not interested in waging theological battles along these lines. I would rather come to a gentle experiential resolution myself, for my own deeper walk of faith. I also need to acknowledge that some people find a feminine image of God to be troublesome, due to their own negative experience with their mothers, similar to my experience with a masculine God. But that is beyond the scope of this essay.

Three sources of inspiration about God as feminine have assisted me along the way to my current experience. The first came from my teaching minister and co-author Bob Guelich, who approached me one day with a new Bible in his hands. “Read this!” he said, “and tell me what’s different.” I read the passage he pointed out and wondered what he meant. When I looked puzzled he said, “It’s all inclusive language. The New Revised Standard Version.” He was excited about this and knew that it would inspire me too. It was a major step forward in embracing women as a more integral part of the Bible, although it did not use inclusive language for God.

The next inspiration was from an unexpected source. A rabbi was speaking at our protestant church about the Torah (first five books of the Hebrew scriptures) and the Hebrew understanding of God. In his talk he alluded to several Hebrew names for God, like Elohim, Adanoi, Yahweh. He also mentioned Shekhinah, which he said is a feminine Hebrew name for God, the One God of the Israelites. Something inside of me shifted that night and I felt as if I could participate more fully in a wholistic presence of God. Not that I would toss out the masculine images but now I could expand my image to be whole, both/and. Genesis does say that we humans were all created in God’s image, male and female, but that verse was overshadowed by all the masculine language in the scripture.

The third inspiration was from Bobbie Spradley, a friend of mine who did a study of images of God in the Bible. There are literally hundreds of images, like rock, shepherd, protector etc. Mixed in with these though are some decidedly feminine images of God. Examples: “[God cared for them] like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions.” Deuteronomy 32:11 “You are unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth.” Deut. 32:18 “Thus says the Lord…You shall suck, you shall be carried upon her hip and dangled upon her knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” Isaiah 66: 12-13 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” Matthew 23:37   These verses are all in the Bible and are not from a contemporary book of theology.

Once I could envision a motherly side of God I felt invited, during a difficult time in my life, to imagine entering into God’s womb and resting there from all of my stress. Quiet, soothing, iridescent, warm, calming. I curled up into the fetal position and let God absorb my fear and stress. At the time I was going through the Wall, which I write about in my book, The Critical Journey. It is a place where we lay aside (reluctantly) our former life, let go of who we thought we needed to be or wanted to be, release our ego and trust God for the healing process. We slowly, ever so slowly, enter into a new life. It’s kind of like going through a birth process.

It struck me that the Wall is a place of rebirth and that going into God’s womb during difficult times can be like a rebirth too; transformed in God’s womb into a new life. So maybe if we think of the Wall experience, even with all of its difficulties, as a time of going into the womb of God to be reborn, it may help to reframe the Wall into a mid-wife experience, a birthing into a new life instead of focusing on what we are leaving.

When we climb into God’s womb it may feel like God is absorbing us for the period of time it takes us to heal and to transform. Then God sends us back into the world refreshed, rested and transformed. We also return to the world carrying a little spark of God’s love and light.

In the womb of God we find a calmer deeper love for ourselves too, as we absorb God’s love. And that translates as more compassion for others. Besides that, we find rest for our souls. That is awesome. It gives a whole new meaning to the verse from Psalm 23. “She restores my soul.”

Ó Janet O. Hagberg, 2011. All rights reserved.

Reflecting on this essay

Is God masculine or feminine for you, or both?

How does a feminine image of God fit for you?

How would you feel entering into God’s womb?

How have you encountered the Wall?

How does God restore your soul?