“Our father in heaven…” If you are someone who grew up in a church I’ll bet you couldn’t even stop yourself from finishing the Lord’s prayer in your head. And to be honest, before I started in Seminary, I hadn’t really thought much about the gender of God. I mean, we say the Lord’s prayer and it says Father and there are a whole lot of “He” in the Bible in reference to God, so it becomes natural for one to think of the creator in a masculine form.
However, the first time the question “Is God male?” was asked of me, my immediate reaction was “well… no”. If I am reasoning this out, God the Creator is neither Male or Female, and is not subject to time or the size and scope of human beings. As I continued in my seminary studies I found that we would spend a lot of time talking about this. We would argue about it, write papers about it, and talk about how our churches need to understand it.
Then one day in Sunday school a very profound statement came out of a 6th grader. I love middle schoolers, always have. They are silly and awkward and have moments so profound they astound you. We were discussing attributes of God shown in the Old Testament vs attributes in the New Testament and I posed the question “Does God change?” This question was pretty hard for 6th through 12th graders to answer but the consensus was that No, God does not change, but our understanding of God changes because we are human and He is God.
So I said “God is hard for our brains to understand, because we live in a place constrained by time, but God is bigger than time, God is bigger than gender…”
“What?” Shouted one of my boys. “What do you mean God is bigger than gender?”
I wasn’t really prepared for this conversation, but if you’ve opened the can of worms might as well go fishing, so I asked the group, “Alright, this wasn’t our topic for the day but since we are here… Is God male?”
I got a mix of answers, ranging from “Yes, why else do we call him Father?” to “I guess God is whatever he wants to be” to “I don’t even know what you are talking about”
Before I could address any of these answers one of my 6th grade girls said, in a quiet voice “I’ve always wondered about this, because if we are created in God’s image, and if God is a dude… then what does that mean for me?”
Everyone in the room got silent, as they processed what this meant for women, and the students began to understand God in a different way. All I had said before had set a stage for this profound question from an 11 year old, and taught the class more than I ever could. I love it when God works that way.