Using exclusively male pronouns for the Divine can be limiting, idolatrous, and downright damaging to our spiritualities. It can subconsciously rearrange our imaginations, decrease our self-esteem, and make us question our place in the ongoing creation of the world. Let’s explore other images of God and see what these images might have to say to our souls.
Above, Eugene Peterson translates El Shaddai into The Strong God.
El Shaddai is most often translated in English as “The Almighty.” That’s what you’ll see in the NIV and other mainstream translations of Scripture into English.
Both “The Almighty” and “The Strong God,” ignite our cultural idea that men are physically stronger than women and may conjure the image of a large, muscly – perhaps even scary – man.
However, this is not the strength and power to which this passage refers, because
Shad is the Hebrew word for breast.
Scholar Arthur Zannoni concludes:
Breasts, indeed, are mighty and strong. When a newborn infant is wailing – disturbing ears and spirits for miles around – who has the power to comfort and silence her? Who has the power to soothe her back into equilibrium? The one with the breasts!
El Shaddai is the one who never forgets her child. The one whose scent is home, whose skin is instant comfort, whose voice is soothing music, whose milk contains the exact formulation of what the infant needs.
The Nursing Superhero
The nursing mother swoops in, like a superhero ready to save the day, whipping out a swollen, leaky human breast and applies her power and – suddenly – all is peace. All is quiet. All can rest.
And so it is with the Divine. The Breasted God draws us close. She quiets our fears with gentle whispers. She soothes our weary bodies by her familiar scent. She has just what we need. She swoops like a superhero. Or maybe she simply rolls over in the bed. She is so near and so perfectly equipped to meet our needs.
May I find the courage today to submit to the Breasted God, trusting that She has exactly what I need.