Today’s passage: Psalm 90
Today’s chocolate: Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Espresso Beans topped with Justin’s Almond Butter
I remember a time in college when a friend volunteered to open the Christian Fellowship meeting with a prayer. The first words out of his mouth? “Our Mother, who art in Heaven.” It was like he’d dropped a bomb into the circle; even with my eyes closed, I could feel something shift in the room. After he finished praying, another member of the group quickly threw out a few conciliatory words about how God’s name “El Shaddai” referred to the Hebrew term for “breast,” but I remember thinking that God was masculine, not feminine, and that my friend’s invocation had been misled at best, possibly even out of line. I congratulated us on being such a charitable group to not require perfect theology from our “baby Christians.” Big pat on the back for us, right?
But since then, I’ve found myself eating the words I thought to myself, words I never actually spoke. Beyond the suggestion in the name “El Shaddai” that God’s all-sufficiency is like that of a mother nursing her child, I continue to find scriptural indications that both male and female bear the divine image in their masculinity and femininity. And today’s psalm, evidently penned by Moses himself, contains just such a verse. “Before the mountains were born, or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God” (2), it states. It pictures God as a woman in labor, birthing his–her?–creation. God with a womb, God pushing out mountains, God in labor with the universe.
Of course, though, that’s not Moses’ point. He’s not writing the psalm to teach that God is in fact a cosmic mom, and if I stick on just that verse, I run the risk of losing his bigger picture. His point is that while God is eternal, the world and the humans who live in it are ephemeral creatures. “A thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it passes by” (4) he tells God. But man’s timespan is less than one of God’s eon-days: “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years” (10). The mom predates the baby. God predates man.
I think the image of God birthing the mountains illustrates that God is not just chronologically but ontologically prior to his creation. The mom doesn’t need the baby in order to exist, but the baby wouldn’t exist without the mom. The mom is greater than the baby. God, the mom, is the necessary being. And keeping this truth in mind, we ought to remain humble.
I certainly could have been more humble in that Christian Fellowship meeting where I thought I knew more about God than my brother. If you’re reading this, buddy, I’m sorry for judging you.