I'm sure the disciples viewed Jesus as a man's man. Most of us do. He's the guy who took the whips and drove the money changers from the temple. He hangs out fishing with the guys. He calls Himself God's Son. What could be more manly than that?
So, it probably came as a shock to the disciples when Jesus said that He longed to "gather [Jerusalem's] children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings" (Luke 13:34, NIV). That's what we heard in today's Scripture message at church.
And it wasn't a new thought. There are several places throughout the Bible where God is referred to in similar feminine terms--including like a hen. Psalm 94:1 says, "He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart."
So, it's a weird passage to come up in the Lenten journey (okay, there was more to the passage than Jesus being a hen), but sometimes--maybe most of the time--the Lenten journey is about discomfort. The feminine side of the Trinity might be a bit upsetting of our normal perceptions. But we need to know the gentleness of God as well as His strength (though St. Frances de Sales would say there are the same). Maybe the discomfort is in seeing Him sacrifice His own Son (because He loves us, of course, but we still need to deal with the uneasiness of the fact). Maybe it's simply trying to understand how God can love us when we are so unlovable sometimes. For some it might be the whole image of God as Father--especially if your earthly father was absent or abusive.
Whether the feminine side of God is something you struggle with or not, let the image of the hen and her chicks bolster your perception of your standing with God. He loves you deeply. He covers you with His love. He shelters you. He is close enough to you that you could hear His heartbeat as His feathers brush against you. For me, the struggle is more of experiencing God in that way. I know this is there because I struggle with that in my human relationships--that others can't love me because of my shortcomings.
I think oftentimes our struggles with our image of God come from our struggles with humans. We don't often see the feminine in a strong way among men our our Western culture (Eastern cultures sometimes do better with this). Masculine men have to be manly. Feminine men are labeled in homosexual terms (derogatorily, of course). Our cultural models don't exhibit strength through gentleness or power through caring. In God the best of masculine and feminine is present. And all of that is wrapped up in love.
* * * * *
What's struggles do you have with how you view God? How do they connect to your human relationships?