A few years ago, I sent out Christmas cards with a Meister Eckhart* quote on the front: “What good is it that Christ was born in a stable in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago if he is not also born in me?” Inside, the card read: “How is God being born in you this Christmas?”
The Advent season is always a time, for me, of making space for God — making space for God to be born in me. Quieting down, listening deeply below the holiday hustle and bustle for what is good, true and real, trusting God’s presence in the darkness, and waiting expectantly to become a light-bearer, a God-bearer.
Early last month, I traveled to the Bay Area for a gathering called Alchemy: Occupy Your Sacred Self, hosted by the organization, Women of Spirit and Faith. The purpose of the event was to nurture, empower and give voice to the divine feminine in all of us gathered women — old, young, black, white and brown, Christian, Muslim, Native American, Jewish and Pagan. I joined a drum circle, I chanted Sufi music, I learned to tantric dance, I entered a womb of women and wailed for the world, I was smudged by First Nation grandmothers and their daughters. I sat in circle after circle of women, listening to stories and sharing my own, of deep longings for the world, for ourselves … for the new thing that wanted to be born in us, in greater service to the world.
What good is it if Jesus was born 2000 years ago, if he is not also born in me today?
Alchemy is one such powerful place where God is being mid-wifed among women. My experience of the Divine was honored, enhanced and expanded by these sisters of Spirit. One of the many remarkable women I met during the weekend was Lana Dalberg, a soft-spoken progressive Lutheran woman, musician and writer, and most recently author of Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine. Perusing the book and its spiritual narratives from a variety of women this third week of Advent, I’ve been pondering the feminine-ness of the Christmas event, when God entered the world through Mary … when Mary birthed God. And I’ve been wondering about the many, intimate ways women continue to experience and birth God’s love in our world today.
I sought out Lana recently to ask her about the stories in her book, and how we, as women are uniquely receiving and revealing God in our lives everyday.
In meditation, I had experienced God as mother — a powerfully affirming and exquisitely loving experience — and so I wanted to hear how other women experienced the Divine. I wanted to hear from all kinds of women, whatever their faith tradition, whatever their cultural and socio-economic background. The women themselves inspired me to put their stories together into a book.
Is there a common thread that runs through the stories of these women?
How women experience the Divine seemed to be a braid of three strands: Women experiencing divine love actually love themselves; women experiencing the Divine also connect (in nature and with loved ones); and women experiencing the Divine embrace change — whether that be illness, the death of a loved one, fresh creativity, or a new life direction.What surprised you in listening to the stories of these women?
I interviewed nearly 60 women, and every single woman had a spiritual story to share. Listening to these women, I felt like I was unearthing a treasure trove of intimacies with the Divine: God radiating love at the deathbed of a murdered brother, God cradling her children, God alleviating anxiety with wind-lofted, loving words. Women described divine hands holding them as they were being physically tortured or when they were being hunted by soldiers bent on killing them and their children. They spoke of a peaceful confidence, a certainty that emerged from within in these excruciating moments. Others described the incredible, seemingly impossible task of giving birth or the joy of midwifing, when a soul “moves from that side of the veil to this side, from there to here.”
How do women’s experiences of God differ from men’s?
I believe that women often experience connection at a deeper level than most men and intuit the needs of those close to them. Women likely honed this ability over millennia because human infants’ survival depended on mothers developing a sensitivity to their nonverbal cues. Whether or not they were biological mothers, the women I interviewed talk about connecting deeply with people and in nature. They express a profound awareness of God in daily life. Men also experience God’s presence but often do not possess the natural proclivity or desire to connect that is innate to most women.
What are some of your favorite stories from Birthing God?
Viviana Martinez, comatose and on the brink of death, experiences Spirit for the first time and the interconnectedness of all life. Upon awakening, she changes the direction of her life, ultimately serving as a shamanic healer and spiritual director.
Then there’s Belvie Rooks, who was just 13 when she was inwardly forewarned of a collapsing structure that would have killed her. She reflects, “I was profoundly grateful that there’d been this inner urging. It created an awareness that there was Something larger than me that when listened to and honored was protective.”
Dr. Chung Hyun Kyung is the woman who describes feeling embraced by divine hands while she is being tortured in a South Korean prison. She says, “Despite the horrible pain, I felt very soft and warm hands holding me… Whether I lived or died, I knew that I could not be separated from this great love of God.”
I am a different person for having heard these moving and transformative stories.
Who do you hope reads this book and what do you hope they take away from it?
I hope that readers will be moved to deepen their own intimate moments with the Divine, this One who yearns for us, who waits to be born in our lives. I hope that this book engenders self-acceptance as readers give expression to Divine Light and Love in their own lives.
Is there anything else you want to say about the book?
The women’s stories inspire reflection, and so I added questions as prompts for discussion or personal meditation. Each story also includes a suggested practice such as participating in a guided visualization or walking a labyrinth.
Where can people find out more about your book?
The book can be previewed and purchased at SkyLight Paths Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.
“We are all meant to be mothers of God…,” wrote Meister Eckhart, “for God is always needing to be born.” What are the ways you are making space for God in your life, and how is the Divine being birthed in you this season?
* Meister Eckhart was a 13th Century German theologian and mystic, who is also credited with another of my favorite sayings: “If the only prayer you ever make to God is ‘thank you,’ it will be enough.”