Last week UBC was a sponsor for the Nevertheless She Preached Conference at First Baptist Church in Austin. I was very fortunate to attend Monday & Tuesday’s workshops, lectures and worship services.
The purpose of the NSP Conference is to “empower all people to dismantle patriarchal structures by elevating voices of faith leaders on the margins, especially women and sexual minorities of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.”
Throughout the two days there were many inspiring women with messages to challenge and strengthen us. Rev. Emmy Kegler spoke about how boundaries keep people safe, but too often they also keep people out. Dr. Lai Ling Ngan, a retired professor from Truett Theological Seminary, charged us to reread and retell the stories of women in the bible. Dr. Namsoon Kang told us how there isn’t a problem with identities or labels, but the problem is the inequality between the labels. Rev. Carrie Graham challenged us that in order to have a dialog with someone, we must remember that we’re not there to win, we’re present in the conversation to hear each other.
I could go on and on and on. I have, in fact. Just ask my wife.
But the one thing I learned that I will carry with me throughout my life is this: my God is a hispanic brown woman. Growing up in a Southern Baptist Church, I was taught that God was a man, a father figure. That he was a white man was never really stated outright, but insinuated. I just couldn’t relate to “Him”. The white men, father figures, in my life either left me, abused me or belittled me. Throughout my life, I struggled with the Father God of whom I was taught and who I thought I knew. I didn’t need another “Father” to tell me what to do, what not to do and how I was at fault for being who I was. It was natural to relate this God to the men around me who told me I couldn’t serve God because “He” doesn’t call women to preach, teach or lead worship of anyone except children and other women. I had a difficult time with this God.
When I began worshipping at UBC, someone mentioned the idea of God as female and this blew my mind. God, of course, made humans in their own image and part of this image was the feminine one. My heart could relate to the divine feminine, even if my mind had difficulty breaking the habit of the “He.”
At the conference last week, Dr. Alicia Reyes-Barrientez led a workshop titled, “A White Jesus Can’t Save A Brown Child.” Sitting in this lecture, I realized the revised image I had of God the female was only half-right. If God created us in their image, then God is every skin color in the spectrum. I wondered, what if God doesn’t care about the image we have of God, as long as we yearn for and work for a continual deeper relationship with them? What if, God for me, is a brown woman?
Now, I know Hispanic women. They were my mother, my grandmother, my godmother and my aunts. They were my Sunday School teachers and my choir directors. They loved me, disciplined me, respected me, and taught me to respect myself. These women were God incarnate throughout my life. What if God was a brown woman? This brown woman would say, “¿Mija, a quién le importa qué imagen tienes de mí?” “My daughter, who cares what image you have of me?” as long as I desire and move toward a relationship with Her. This is a God I can relate to, listen to, pray to and live with.
With this image, my soul has been moved beyond words. My spirit soars with joy and peace knowing I have finally found my God. After almost 47 years of life, I have found God in such a profound way. I am thrilled with the prospect of getting to know Her more. And best of all, the bible tells me that She has known me since I was in the womb. My God. My brown woman.
What does your God look like?
Director of Hospitality