I often consider the reasons why Jesus is so captivating. I’m not talking about his divine nature and miracles, I’m meaning who he was as a human being. He navigated wide territory of emotions in time spent with both the downtrodden and the oppressor, modeling an uncanny ability of both boldness and gentleness, outrage and compassion, vulnerability and tenacity.
Psychologist Carl Jung’s pioneering work in understanding human nature broke ground with his theories and belief that individuals embody both a female and male quality or archetypes within their psyche known as the anima and animus. Although Jung’s theories are complex, the basis of his work states that for each individual to become whole, both the positive aspects of the anima and animus within need integration. The balance of both positive qualities offers a vision of wholeness.
I like to think of this integration as returning to our original design in Genesis 1:26-7 as being made in the image of God – that is both male and female.
Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.. in the image of God he created them; male and female God created them.
Jesus is the ultimate model of wholeness needed for bringing heaven to earth, for shepherding peace and harmony into our marriages, families, communities and world. He models the qualities of an exemplary human balanced in both the masculine and feminine aspects of God.
Jesus embodies the positive feminine/anima qualities of gentleness, nurturing, sensitivity, empathy, tenderness and compassion. But first we must understand these qualities in light of the maternal qualities of God often depicted in the Bible:
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (Isaiah 49:15.)
“As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 66:13.)
Mystic Meister Eckhart once said, “What does God do all day long? God gives birth. From all eternity God lies on a maternity bed giving birth.” Julian of Norwich wrote, “As truly as God is our Father, so truly is God our Mother”.
She spoke of Jesus the same way: “We owe our being to him–and this is the essence of motherhood! –and all the delightful, loving protection which ever follows. God is as really our Mother as he is our Father.”
In scripture Jesus cries out:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those that are sent unto her, how often would I have gathered thy children as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” Matthew 23:37
He called himself a “nurse taking care of her children” (1 Thessalonians 2,7), and was like a “woman suffering birth-pangs until Christ be formed in his people”. Galatians 4,19
Isaiah foreshadows the qualities of the Messiah, “He will feed his flock like a shepherd: he will gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom.” Isaiah 40:11
Jesus’ ministry epitomized nurturing, compassion and gentleness, telling us clearly to come to him for rest, “I am gentle and humble in heart.” In Matthew we learn: “And Jesus went forth and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion towards them, and he healed their sick.”
Jesus also embraced the feminine aspect of vulnerability we witness in the agonizing scene at the Mount of Olives, before his death. Embracing our own vulnerability in facing our deepest grief and during times when loss and fear consume our lives, excavating the depth of our emotions with vulnerable pleas for divine strength, follows the way of Jesus. Here at Mount Olives “He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground”.
Jesus, modeled the vulnerability required for meaningful friendship and being part of community as seen in this tender scene in the gospel of John when Mary’s brother Lazarus dies: Mary cries out, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!”
He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. And He said, “Where have you laid him?”
They said, “Lord, come and see.”
Then Jesus wept.
As I read this scripture I remember the day a relative told his brother at their father’s funeral. Don’t cry! Hold yourself together!” This “manly”, “man-up” mentality caused his brother years of depression, until the damn of tears burst when he finally was given permission by a compassionate counselor to cry.
When we comfort loved ones grieving, when we encourage tears and weep with our friends, we become like Christ.
Jesus also displayed masculine qualities. Unhealthy masculinity in men masks itself as rage, violence and machismo, often caused by negative modeling of masculinity in their lives including abuse, and ‘boys don’t cry’ messages from both parents and culture. Women with fragmented masculine aspects often weren’t encouraged to enliven their God-given gifts. They often become fearful, depressed, or paralyzed, when instead they need to step into their power. They may have had a father who never pursued his own dreams, or who modeled unhealthy, crippled masculinity.
Jesus, both gentle as a lamb and as fierce as a lion, expressed anger as outrage, directing it toward the bulls-eye of injustice and hypocrisy. Rather than becoming enraged like many men and women whose rage often turns explosive, Jesus’s never succumbs to physical or emotional violence against another. Instead, he turns over tables of injustice, stripping off masks of religiosity and hypocrisy with frank, no-nonsense sharp-tongued words, convicting perpetrators with pure truth.
“When He found the Temple filled with people selling exorbitantly priced sacrificial animals, He drove them out, pouring out their money and overturning tables . He told them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robbers’ den”.
He confronts the Pharisees:
“You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell?” Matthew 21-23
“Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men, for you yourselves do not enter in!” Matthew 23:13n!”
I now understand why, when I read the red-letter scriptures, Jesus’ words jump off the page into my lap. They astound and challenge me to want to follow his way, standing both bold as a truth-teller, and honey laced with gentleness. I long to be being as shrewd as a snake and as innocent and as a dove, both a lion and a lamb. I long for both being both a leader and a servant, merciful, kind and forgiving, and to speak the truth in love. I want my tongue to turn into a sword that cuts through lies, greed and injustice.
I’ve dreamed I wanted to marry Jesus, which I now see as a sacred inner wedding, a deeper yearning for wholeness and surrender. As we become branches on Christ’s vine, we center ourselves in his divine nurturing and healing. We drink from the fruit of the vine, immersing ourselves in the sacred balance of Christ’s divine feminine and masculine, his presence healing the wounded parts of our psyches that cause greed, rage, violence, hate, depression, and even boredom, ineffectiveness, procrastination and lack of purpose.
I want to end this in reflection by inviting you to consider your own inner masculine and feminine qualities in light of Christs’. Below I’ve put together a brief chart of what I think are common negative aspects of the anima and animus verses the positive qualities Jesus embodies. Consider both the positive and negative qualities in your own lives. Which parts need healing? Which aspects can you bring to Christ’s light for healing and integration? What aspects of you feel whole and healthy?
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