image of God

Raising Girls in the Image of a Male God?

Here is a guest post by my favorite person in the world; Jan Huckins (my wife). I learn from and am challenged by her everyday, so I’m thrilled she put pen to paper to offer up this incredibly important piece to us all. She is often so busy living the life I talk about that she doesn’t have time to do this silly blog stuff…

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At seven months pregnant, I remember walk-waddling through the narrow, congested streets of the Old City of Jerusalem as it brimmed with life, scent and color. Between my protruding baby bump and the wildly hospitable shopkeepers, I was regularly stopped and asked, “It is a boy?” Those who didn’t know English as well would just say, “Boy?!”

Each time I would answer, “No, just a sweet little girl,” and each time their eyebrows would fall in a look of pity and say, “Oh well, she’ll be a helper.” This became such a common question that before they could ask, I nearly started responding, “I’m having a girl and she’ll be an amazing helper!”

This encounter in blatant gender preference led down an eye opening and transformational path where it became clear that this reality wasn’t reserved to the Middle East, but extended around the globe. As a mother of three precious girls, my experience in the Middle East -- and the learnings that followed -- have made me cling even more to how much I value raising girls.

Having been born in the early 80’s, I loved listening to Adventures in Odyssey, knew every Keith Green song, believed every word out the mouth of my male pastor and youth pastor, supported our predominately male military and pledged my allegiance to our male presidents as we watched males play all the professional sports that ever made it to our TV screen.

It wasn’t that any of these men were inherently wrong or bad, it’s that I rarely ever had the opportunity to be exposed to females with significant influence. And when I did, it was often in our shared attempt to unpack Proverbs 31 and its implications on our biblical womanhood. I would patiently wait for my “Todd” (Christy Miller series) to be my spiritual leader and finally bring me to completion.

When I closed my eyes in church, I would always envision God being in the form of a loving and accepting father. Again, this is a good and beautiful vision, but I’ve had to begin asking the questions, “Is this the only image of God that is acceptable and true? Does seeing God only as male somehow lessen the value and significance of women who were also created in God’s image?”

As I continually wrestle through these questions while raising three girls, the implications of our image of God has become much more tangible. Will my husband and I only introduce our children to a male image of God or begin to offer a more nuanced picture of the One we follow?

For the last three decades the male pronoun of God is all I’ve ever known, but that won’t be the story for our girls. It’d be like living your whole life only knowing and loving the sun but not discovering the moon and all the purpose and glory it brings.

When I think of the image of God as mother, I think of my mother-in-law in silent strength next to women as they navigate the trauma of cancer. I think of our local midwife who has empowered and accompanied the women in our community through the beauty and challenge of childbirth. I think of the single moms who are heroically raising their kids against all odds. I think of my friends who are yearning for children of their own even as they celebrate the new life of those around them. I think of my community of women who come around soon-to-be mothers to prepare and champion their efforts during labor. I think of my own mother who gives herself to the flourishing of societies’ marginalized as a way to reassign them dignity.

These experiences have given me an expanded image of who God is, but in ways I never thought possible. They are re-birthing a vision of life, hope and liberation.

I have nothing against men and am incredibly grateful for my present, involved, and loving husband. In fact, I don’t have anything I’m trying to prove or argue. I simply want Ruby, Rosie and Lou to believe in a gospel story that celebrates both the sun and the moon. And in doing so, maybe my girls won’t only find fulfillment as wives and mothers, but as liberated, compassionate and strong girls who see their own faces in the One who gave birth to all creation.

Women, Child Birth and What it Means to be Fully Human Again

Prayer for Baby ChaseMy wife, Jan, was 8 days past her due date when the first signs of labor finally kicked in about 5am. Being past your due date is no fun (keep in mind, I’m a dude talking here, so I really have no idea how hard it really is) as you start to wonder, 1. if this little creature will actually EVER arrive and 2. if your labor will be have to be initiated by powers outside of your control, namely lots of drugs and stuff. After our first babe (Ruby) decided to make her triumphal entry on the very LAST day before we would had to make some hard choices about the road forward, we were praying baby #2 would come along a bit sooner. 

As the contractions strengthened, we celebrated that this was the real deal and Janny locked into this sacred, super-human state of focus and determination like I’ve never encountered.  

Strong. 

Steady. 

Quiet.

At peace. 

It was surreal. Of course, I was a ball of anxiety, fear and anticipation wrapped in the cloak of a “secure support partner.” About 80% of her laboring happened at home when we finally got in the car to head to the birthing center. Trying not to hit the breaks, speed without getting a ticket and keep my mouth shut, we pulled in and got all settled in for the grand arrival. 

Again, surreal. 

Confidently instructing a handful of us on how to support her, Janny was stoic. Not long after we got to the birthing center, our little Rosie arrived in my arms (quite literally!) and we snuggled as a family of four for the first time. 

As I began to process what had just unfolded in front of my eyes, I was struck by the sacredness of the whole birthing event. A women is able to grow a baby inside of her body (with a TINY bit of help from a man), have a full grown baby come out of her body and then offer it all the resources it needs…with her body. 

There is something sacred to this and I don’t think it gets celebrated or near the attention it should. 

When God created humanity, we were made in God’s image. The very nature of God was inscribed on us as God had serious plans for the role humans would play in the Creation Story. There was no sin. No fallenness. No vision for us to become subservient to the constructs that would be assembled around us. In fact, to be fully human was to be quite divine. 

Of course, we know there was a break in the Story. Selfishness, infidelity and violence started to corrupt what was originally created to be in perfect union with God. 

While our faith tradition affirms the reality of sin, it also affirms the reality of God’s image and design being central to who we are as humans. After the Reformation (think John Calvin, Martin Luther and a lot of angry church folk), this portion of our tradition didn’t get as much press, but it is just as true as ever. 

That brings me back to what I saw and experienced in that birthing center. I got a glimpse into a rightly ordered creation. I saw -- quite tangibly -- the way God created us to function…and it was remarkable. It was worship. It was a reminder that the God who created us hasn’t given up on us. No, in fact, he is still very much with us, we just need to have the eyes to see it.

One of our dear friends and neighbors is a couple weeks out from her due date. After losing her first baby a few months into her pregnancy, these moments leading up to arrival seem a little extra sacred. Having lost our first baby at 5 months along, Janny understands the mental, emotional and spiritual weight of carrying a baby to term after such a tragedy. 

As such, Janny transformed our upstairs bedroom into a little haven of blessing, encouragement and renewal. With candles lit and soft music streaming quietly through the space, she invited this woman over for a facial. Having gotten her friend settled into this space, Janny started to reveal a series of surprises that turned an ordinary facial into an experience with the divine. 

One of our other friends came in the room with her harp and began to play next to the bed. Then, one-by-one, women from our faith community came into the room and offered blessings over mom and baby. Instead of leaving after their blessing, most stayed and began massaging her feet and arms and belly. 

Tears were shed, burdens were carried together and the hope of new life became palpable. 

I often talk about the idea of a thin place; a physical space where heaven and earth seem to collide. A place where God’s kingdom is made real.

In this instance, it was a place where we got a glimpse into what it means to be fully human again. A place where God’s intended design actually came about. 

In a world where heroism, success and order are most often defined by men projecting their insecurities on society, I thank God for women. And for far more than childbirth (that just happens to be what deeply moved me recently).

For their leadership.

For their compassion.

For the way they show us what sacrificial love actually looks like.

For the way they guide us to the stuff that actually matters most.

For they remind us that rightly ordered humanity isn’t about who holds the most power, but who is most willing to give it away for the sake of another.

Because, for me, women show us how to be fully human again. 

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