Rev. Steven R. Giddens
"I am Who I am"
One of my favorite pieces of biblical literature is the drama surrounding Moses inquiring about God’s name in Exodus 3. Moses tried so hard to get God to give a name, something tangible, something humanly acceptable that he may give to Pharaoh and his hosts as well as the people of Israel and God refused; “I am who I am”. I think about this passage a lot when thinking about God and how God relates to humanity. I even draw on this passage when trying to explain God to someone, even someone who was raised in a Christian church. For me, this is a great explanation and example of God not conforming to the ideals or labeled boxes that we mere mortals construct for our own purposes. God created the heavens and earth and all creatures herein contained and yet we still have the audacity to think that we can label and define God?
"Since you saw no form when the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire, take care and watch yourselves closely, so that you do not act corruptly by making an idol for yourselves, in the form of any figure—the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth. And when you look up to the heavens and see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, do not be led astray and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples everywhere under heaven. – Deuteronomy 4:15-19.
To linguistically portray God as a father, or God as a woman giving birth, or an eagle, or a sacred wind, all of those things put a limiting image up to represent God. Including using the divine characters as a name, which I believe is why the Hebrews use Adonai. All the ways we choose to refer to God are images, and all of them are limited representations of who and what God is. All of them are potentially idolatrous symbols but they are too all of our metaphors and ways of referring to God and are therefore not necessarily idolatrous but could be. More to the point, I think it is entirely egocentric and arrogant of us, as humans to try and form God and God's image to our standards, wants, needs, or our own selfish desires. God is what God is and will be what God will be and we need to be ok with this. To me, God is both male and female while being neither. God is beyond gender and using a gender pronoun for God, I feel, has more to do with our own comfort than our theological understandings of God. I say this because most people I talk to about God's gender use arguments that help justify their particular usage but why should we care? Can't we just accept that our God created humanity and if we also believe that God is still working and still creating then wouldn’t our God transcend gender conformity? Lastly, I believe that since God can be whatever God chooses to be, that all images and metaphors for God are possible. To this end, I believe that both all images and metaphors for God are acceptable and that none are but that this too is a case for inclusive language for God. We cannot, as humans, expect to fully know and understand the mysterious workings of God who presented to Moses as a burning bush and as a dense cloud. As such, I strive to live and preach in a manner that reflects my deep wrestling with this concept and find balance in the judicious use of these tools used to relate to God. I feel that this is a healthy respect to have for our Lord and for all of God’s creation and it helps me to see God moments in unexpected places; the birth of a foal, the nurturing of a child by two fathers, the love of parent who accepts a child who chooses to be different, and more. The love of God is present in all of this creation and I believe that love goes beyond labels especially for God.