“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27 NIV)
I really enjoyed the new Wonder Woman movie, an origin story that was funny, interesting, and (without spoiling anything) not full of bitterness and revenge. A few weeks ago, an opinion piece about it popped up in my social media feeds. Its premise is that Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is an amazing representation of Biblical womanhood—someone who is strong enough to fight but motivated by love; someone who feels deeply, but finds her emotions a source of strength instead of shame. Is that not also like God?
(Note: I first started thinking about this idea when reading an interview with Jen Pollock Michael (behind a paywall), and she in turn got many of her ideas from the book Wearing God. I also discovered after I wrote this that someone else had basically written it already (oops!), but here’s my take.)
Genesis 1:27 (above) tells us that God created mankind as individuals either male or female—he gave each of us a gender, and the two genders are not the same. But the very same sentence says that he made us in his image, meaning that both men and women, though different, are reflections of their Creator. In other words, although God inspired the authors of the Bible to refer to him as “he” and Jesus came to earth as a man, it’s important to remember that God freely describes himself in ways that don’t align with only one gender.
For example, in Matthew 23:37, Jesus longs to console his people, comparing himself to a mother hen gathering her chicks under her wing. In Psalm 131, David says that by putting his hope in the Lord, he is “calmed and quieted like a weaned child with its mother” (NIV). In Isaiah 42:14, God says that he gasps and pants “like a woman in childbirth” (NIV). Jesus compares God to someone who prepares a banquet in the Parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14:16-23).
We talk all the time about God our Father, but that can be a fraught metaphor for people who don’t have great relationships with or memories of their father. Culture conditions us with expectations about what fathers do in a family, specifically in relation to what mothers do. I also think culture plays a stronger role than biological fact in our beliefs about which behaviors we consider “feminine” or “masculine,” thus leading us to the trap of thinking that because God uses the male pronoun and came to earth as a man, he embodies only masculine traits.
By embracing the feminine aspects of God, we not only point a way to God for people who are wary of or have been harmed by their fathers or other men, we gain a richer understanding of his nature. He is too great for us to truly comprehend on earth, but we can find his image in all the people around us, whatever their gender.
Abigail can be reached by email here.