"The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough" Matt. 13:33
By now The Shack is no longer in theaters and hopefully, the furor surrounding it has subsided. For the record, I saw it and thoroughly enjoyed it. Paul Young is a good fiction writer who did an amazing job describing his personal healing journey. Done, not as a doctrinal or theological treatise, but in response to his wife's request, he penned something special for their children. She had in mind an essay, he wrote a book.
Never intended for publication, The Shack is an example of how to do everything wrong to publish and market a book and accidentally wind up with a bestseller. Since its release and now that of the movie, lines of demarcation have been drawn over issues it raises. One in particular is the depiction of God as a black woman! Perish the thought (and she doesn't speak the King's English either). Paul Young, however, wasn't the first person to describe God in a feminine form. Jesus beat him to the punch.
I owe some of these insights to Robert Farrar Capon and his book Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus. It's his examination of the Parable of the Leaven that captured my attention and got the wheels of my thought processes spinning.
"Let is simply be noted in passing that the surrogate for God in this parable is a woman. Set that down with Jesus calling Himself a mother hen."
Capon elaborates. The woman isn't a typical housewife crafting a few loaves of artisanal bread for a dinner party. This lady is a commercial baker doing what has in the past been considered men's work.
The measure of flour (sáta) used is equivalent to ninety pounds. Add in approximately forty-two cups of water and you'll have just over one hundred pounds of bread dough. I've seen bakers mix this amount of ingredients using heavy duty mixers. Doing this by hand would be a daunting task, which is her methodology.
Capon's main point wasn't that God was portrayed as a female baker, but in light of the uproar of Paul Young's depiction of God as a woman, it's not as out in left field as his critics contend. It's ironic that the initial encounter with the protagonist of The Shack and God involves bread making.
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created Him, male and female He created them" Gen. 1:27.
God is spirit, neither male nor female, but He's free to reveal Himself anyway He chooses. For those with father issues like Paul Young, God took a more maternal approach to help him work through his painful, traumatic past. It was successful and that's what's important.
In addition, the name of God El Shaddai means the All Breasty One which is the picture of a nursing mother. Proverbs describes Wisdom as a woman with God at Creation. Jesus is the Creator and is also called our Wisdom. The word used for Holy Spirit in the Genesis account of creation is in the female form. Apparently, God doesn't mind being associated with either sex since He made them both.
How about you? Does the idea of God portrayed in a feminine role grate on your nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard? Do you find it uncomfortable or strange that Jesus used women as symbols for God in the Parables of the Leaven and the Lost Coin or likened Himself to a mother hen? Based on your past, could you relate to God easier at times from a motherly perspective as opposed to a fatherly one? God desires healing and intimacy with all creation and He'll go to extraordinary lengths to make it happen.