My wife and I have a unique partnership. For these 55 years of our marriage, she has tended to most things indoors and I’ve tended to most things outdoors. Which means that on these hot and muggy summer days I’m the one who gets to work up a sweat, and she’s the one who gets the clean towel out for my shower afterward.
What a team!
But I’m not sure we’re really all that unique.
Indoors/outdoors. Inside/outside. Partnerships that strike something of a functional balance. And it may not be so unusual at all for open and relational partners to divide their labors along such lines. One stays in, one goes out, both play to their own strengths.
Couple weeks ago I attended the annual summer Open and Relational Theology Conference on the back range of Wyoming’s scenic Teton Mountains. If you’re into Process Thought and looking for a safe place to wrestle with questions about your own understanding of God, I highly recommend you attend what will be called ORTCON23 next July 10-14, 2023. Check out http://thomasjayoord.com/ for more info.
Going outdoors in a place like the Tetons is a great place to find God’s magnificent presence, to be sure. But what if I told you that God is open to the idea of working indoors in partnership with each one of us in exchange for us building the roads and resorts, the airplanes and the runways, and every other outdoor means of discovering places like the Rocky Mountains of North America? What if God’s best way of relating to and partnering with us humans is by doing the internal, spiritual work while we take care of the external, physical work that requires our own human arms, legs, voices and bodily senses?
Maybe you heard about the farmer who was standing tall at the edge of his even taller summer cornfield when a stranger approached. The other fellow, in amazement, said, “wow! You and the good Lord sure have raised a beautiful field of corn this year!” To which the farmer replied, “yep! And you should have seen it last year when the good Lord owned it all by himself!”
Even God needs a partner.
Just as God can’t raise a field of corn alone, neither can we. Somebody has to take care of the outside work while the other handles the inside. God needs our skin. Our bodies. But we need God’s spirit. Our souls. God works best from the inside out, and we do best from the outside in. God does the inspiring part and, yes, on these hot and muggy days of summer, we do all the perspiring. And together, as partners, we make things beautiful for ourselves and others.
It's what open and relational love is all about. It’s what highly functioning and well balanced partnerships are all about.
Jesus made seven I AM references in the New Testament Gospel of John about who he was in relation to the great I AM God of the Old Testament. All seven contain some external imagery that enables us to see what God is like when engaged in open and relational partnership. All seven contain the outdoor work that happens when the Father and Mother (Holy Spirit) God can take care of our indoor work.
Does this imply more than one God? One inside and one out? Well, no more than my wife and I make up more than one marriage together. What it does imply is that if God’s Kingdom is going to come on earth as it is in heaven, then we must take up the work of Jesus as God’s body doing the outside work while we rely upon God for the inside, spiritual work.
There may have been times when we’ve all gotten things backward to the point of assuming the indoor responsibilities while praying to some “out there god” to miraculously take care of the outside work. Maybe we’ve tried to be the brains of the outfit and trusted some out or even “up there god” to plant and raise our corn for us. And if we’ve prayed to that effect, hoping for that god to use his hands and feet or other animal body parts to fix things, doing the perspiring while we do the inspiring? Well, the answer was undoubtedly “no” and such faith in such prayer and in such a god was a most likely flop.
Partnering with God will work for us as it worked for Jesus. We have to do the outdoor physical perspiring while God takes care of the indoor spiritual inspiring.
Kind of like my marriage partnership on these hot and muggy summer days!
What a team!