- With minor apologies to my male colleagues and friends, my mind definitely has been running lately to more feminine metaphors about God, meshalim on childbirth, the labouring mother, and on midwives. In the latest meditation under construction for my book, I have been thinking about the delivering God and wondering whether he is more like the midwife or the labouring mother.
Although I love my God-as-Father, there are days when I just need a God-as-Mother more, someone who is little less the all-powerful military hero and a little more like a woman. Someone who, in her vulnerability, understands how to carry, deliver, nurse, and comfort a suffering child. One is seldom more vulnerable and helpless than when giving birth or being born. In this ancient song from the Dead Sea Scrolls, the writer first identifies himself as a labouring mother but then makes the shift to identify with the baby, the safely delivered one who is named as a “wonderful counselor.
The songwriter uses two different words for the deliverance accomplished by God and by the mother. That there is significant overlap in their meanings, however, can be seen in the way that these words are found in parallel in Isaiah 31:4-5. Here, the prophet first describes God as a great, growling lion and a masculine warrior “LORD of hosts” coming down to do battle on Mount Zion. In the next verse, the image of God shifts to a much gentler one. In this verse “birds hovering overhead” deliver and rescue Jerusalem. These words, “deliver” and “rescue,” are the same ones used by the Dead Sea Scrolls songwriter to describe both God’s delivering role and that of the mother.