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Objectified God

He is the image of God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him everything was created…everything was created by him and for him. He is before everything and in Him everything holds together. – Colossians 1:16-17

I’m reading Richard Rohr’s The Divine Dance. Simply put, this book is about the triune nature of God. If you haven’t read it I would highly recommend it. In fact, if I could I would require it because, as Rohr puts it, “I think the common Christian image of God, despite Jesus, is still largely pagan.” I’m only about 40 pages in and I’m struck by the relationality of God, that God is relationship not only within himself but within us, within me – he is around us and between us holding us together.

God in three persons – loving relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and extended to humanity.

He is in everything. In Him everything holds together.

God is IN all things and it would seem he is also BETWEEN the very things he is in. This is not a pantheistic theological view that would assume God to be the flower, the elephant or the snail but rather that God is the very life force of those things and between those things and all other things. It is also not to say that we are God but rather, as Paul says later in Colossians, “Christ is all and is in all.”

Today I’m considering the image of God anew. If you’re a white North American Protestant like me you’ve been taught from an early age that God is also white, male and old. Probably most damaging and broadly applicable is the omission of a biblically, trinitarian view of God, and for this I again point you back to The Divine Dance. The image of God I’m considering and hopefully challenging today is our view of God as object.

For me, this season of life is filled to the brim with objects. I have two jobs and I’m married to a wife with two jobs (one is a DMin!) with which we are raising two children (one of which often seems to host two wills). Our home is combined with our work which may sound relieving but it means our relationships often have duel roles (some times three), and I have countless relationships of various shapes and orientations – all of this tempts me to assume a life of objectification where I am an object simply meant to satisfy and sustain the objective needs of other objects.

God is not immune. The object of God becomes another thing, another thing to have, another task to complete, another relationship to manage, another supervisor to satisfy, another rhythm, rule, or discipline to contort into our object-heavy lives. And we hope if are able to objectify God enough then he will finally objectify us, calling us to do more, to be more (whether more of ourselves or another person all together) and to reach more on behalf of his mission objective to have more objects.

Consider what Rohr writes:

“Instead of God watching life happen from afar and judging it…How about God being inherent in life itself? How about God being the Life Force of everything? Instead of God being an Object like any other object…How about God being the Life Energy between each and every object (which we would usually call Love or Spirit)?”

John writes, “God is Love” and we’ve always assumed this means that God gives off love or that he is loving as though love is a thing which flows from God. But love is essentially relational so to say God is Love is not to say God IS some thing but rather God is BETWEEN things. God is between.

We long for God to be IN, to be an object we can find, a thing we can prove or a reality we can defend. We long for those who haven’t found IT to find it and invite it into its heart. In doing this our image of God moves from mystery to knowing and in our impatience we fashion for ourselves a predictable, static controllable substance and centerpiece we can decorate our outer lives around.

Rohr later writes, “God-and the human person by an irreducibly important extension-must never be objectified. In fact, God refuses to be an object of our thinking. As John of the Cross so frequently insisted, God refuses to be known but can only be loved.”

We are obsessed with a God we can find, that we can nail down and maybe it was Jesus’ seeming unpredictability that made us nail him down in the first place. In our more novel moments we believe in a God who will find us but still the metaphor of a shepherd and lost sheep breaks down because maybe God is not IN another field we’ve wandered away from but he is actually BETWEEN the expanse itself and will be found as soon as we acknowledge that we were never lost. Sin itself is not being objectively lost but refusing to accept the loving foundness of God.

All of this makes no sense without a Trinitarian image of God-a God which is Three distinct diverse persons and one will who is essentially Love. Oh how this could change everything-to see God as primarily Relationship and not Object. Maybe then we’d understand how it is he “never leaves us nor forsakes us” because God would be woven into the creation He’d created in his Communal Image.

A lot to take in here and I’m very much processing this still but today I will be making a more concerted effort to pray to the Community of God, The Cloud of Witnesses who is not far off but who is found in the most insignificant moments of my day for there is no lighter yoke or easier burden then as one mystic writes, “God comes to us disguised as our lives.”

In the Reality of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Amen